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For the first time in a single volume, this book presents the various arguments in the 
Indo-Aryan controversy by some of the principal scholars in this field of study. Its 
essays provide a template for the basic issues involved in the debates by addressing 
four major areas. First, archaeologists consider some of the recent findings 
and interpretations of the archaeological record, focusing particularly on the issue 
of the relationship between the Indus Valley archaeological complex and the culture 
of the Indo-Aryans as expressed in the Vedic texts. These chapters consider whether 
there was more continuity between the two civilizations than has been assumed in 
earlier works, and evaluate whether there is enough evidence to establish a 
definitive scholarly consensus as to whether or not the Indus civilization was 
actually Indo-Aryan. Second, scholars take on some of the linguistic issues in the 
debate, particularly the relationship between Indo-Aryan and its parent language 
Indo-European, as well as the linguistic borrowings between languages and 
language families. The discussion here rests on whether the traditional rules of 
linguistic derivation for Indo-European languages allow for the possibility that the 
origins of the Indo-Aryan languages developed in India itself. Additionally, authors 
debate whether contact between Indo-Aryan and non-Indo-Aryan languages (such 
as Dravidian or Munda) is the result of Indo-Aryan as a language intruding into the 
subcontinent, or whether other types of mutual interactions between those 
languages can account for such contacts. Third, philological scholars sieve through 
the Vedic texts to find clues that might situate the Vedic Aryans in space and time 
by correlating them with the archaeological record. Different scholars examine 
references to items associated with the Indo-Aryans such as iron, the horse, and 
chariot, as well as astronomical data, to consider the implication such references 
have for the dating of the Veda, a crucial issue in this debate, and the geography 
of its horizons. Finally, historians contribute historiographical contexts for the 
debates, stressing the ways in which positions on this issue might be influenced 
by socio-political or ideological currents, both in the early debates in the nineteenth 
century as well as today. 

Edwin F. Bryant received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1997, 
where he taught Sanskrit and Hindi. He was the Lecturer in Hinduism at Harvard 
University for three years, and is presently Associate Professor in Hinduism 
at Rutgers University, New Jersey. His publications include books on the 
Indo-Aryan invasion debate and on the Krishna tradition. He is presently working 
on a translation of the Yoga Sutras and its commentaries. 

Laurie L. Patton is Professor of Early Indian Religions at Emory University and 
Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities. She is the author 
of two books and twenty-five articles on early Indian myth and poetry, as well as 
a book of poetry, Fire 's Goal: Poems from a Hindu Year. She is presently 
completing a translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Her current book project is a 
collection and analysis of a series of life histories of women Sanskritists in India. 


Evidence and inference in 
Indian history 

Edited by 

Edwin E Bryant and 

Laurie L. Patton 

Q Routledge 

ji^^ Taylor & Francis Gr 

s Group 

First published 2005 

by Routledge 

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon 0X14 4RN 

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada 

by Routledge 

270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group 

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. 

"To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge's 
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to" 

© 2005 editorial matter and selection, Edwin F. Bryant and 
Laurie L. Patton; individual chapters, the contributors 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or 

reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, 

mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter 

invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any 

information storage or retrieval system, without permission in 

writing from the publishers. 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 

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A catalog record for this book has been requested 

ISBN 0-203-64188-4 Master e-book ISBN 

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List of contributors vii 

Acknowledgments xi 

Introduction 1 


Archaeology 19 

1 Culture change during the Late Harappan period 

at Harappa: new insights on Vedic Aryan issues 21 


2 Aryan invasion of India: perpetuation of a myth 50 

B. B. LAL 

3 South Asian archaeology and the myth of 

Indo-Aryan invasions 75 



Archaeology and linguistics 105 

4 The cultural counterparts to Proto-Indo-European, 
Proto-Uralic and Proto-Aryan: matching the dispersal 
and contact patterns in the linguistic and 

archaeological record 107 



5 Archaeology and language: the case of the Bronze 

Age Indo-Iranians 142 


Philology and linguistics 179 

6 The date of the Rigveda and the Aryan migration: 

fresh linguistic evidence 181 


7 Linguistic aspects of the Aryan non-invasion theory 234 


8 Philology and the historical interpretation of the Vedic texts 282 


9 Vedic astronomy and early Indian chronology 309 


10 The textual evidence: the Rigveda as a source 

of Indo-European history 332 


11 Indocentrism: autochthonous visions of ancient India 341 



Historiography 405 

12 Aryan origins: arguments from the nineteenth-century 
Maharashtra 407 


13 Aryan past and post-colonial present: the polemics 

and politics of indigenous Aryanism 434 


14 Concluding remarks 468 


Index 507 



Edwin F. Bryant is Associate Professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University, where 
he teaches Hindu religion and philosophy. His publications include The Quest 
for the Origins ofVedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate (2001). He 
is translator of Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God, Srimad Bhagavata 
Purana Book Ten (2004). He is also editor of Sources of the Krishna Tradition 
(in press) and with Maria Ekstrand of The Hare Krishna Movement: The 
Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant (2004). Bryant is currently at 
work on a translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and its commentaries. 

Christian Carpelan is Researcher at the Department of Archaeology at the 
University of Helsinki. His special field is archaeology of northern and east- 
ern Europe. He has presented papers on the early contacts between Uralic 
and Indo-European in a number of international settings. He is the co-editor 
(with Tony Hackens and Hagne Jungner) of Time and Environment: A PACT 
Seminar (1992) and Early Contacts Between Uralic and Indo-European: 
Archaeological and Linguistic Considerations (2001). 

Madhav M. Deshpande received his MA (1968) at the University of Pune in 
India and his PhD (1972) at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1972 he joined 
the University of Michigan where he is currently Professor of Sanskrit and 
Linguistics. He has published several books and hundreds of articles on 
Indo-Aryan and Paninian linguistics, religion, and philosophy. 

Koenraad Elst earned MA degrees in Philosophy, Chinese Studies and Indo- 
Iranian Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. His PhD 
dissertation on Hindu nationalism, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, became a 
best-seller in India. Making his living mostly by journalism, he has been active 
as an independent scholar in the fields of comparative religion and philosophy 
and of the history of India. Among twenty published titles, most attention has 
been drawn by his Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate; Gandhi and Godse 
(a close discussion of the apology of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram 
Godse); The Saffron Swastika: The Notion of "Hindu Fascism "; and Ayodhya, 
the Case against the Temple. 



Lars Martin Fosse is an independent scholar with a doctorate in Sanskrit. He has 
also studied Hindi and Middle Indie languages, as well as Greek and Latin, at 
the Universities of Oslo, Heidelberg, and Bonn. His research interests involve 
stylometry (statistical analysis of the language and style of Sanskrit texts) as 
well as Vedic and epic studies. In addition to authoring several articles in these 
areas, he has taught at the University of Oslo in Sanskrit, linguistic statistics, 
and Hinduism. 

Hans Henrich Hock is Professor of Linguistics and Sanskrit at the University of 
Illinois Urbana. His research interests include Sanskrit linguistics, especially 
with an emphasis on phonology, syntax, and sociolinguistics. He has written 
extensively on historical Indo- Aryan linguistics and the Indo-Iranian and com- 
parative Indo-European backgrounds of Sanskrit. Among other works, he is 
the author of Principles of Historical Linguistics (1991), senior author (with 
Brian D. Joseph) of Language History, Language Change, and Language 
Relationship (1996), Editor of Studies in Sanskrit Syntax (1991) and of 
Historical, Indo-European, and Lexicographical Studies: A Festschrift for 
Ladislav Zgusta on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday (1997). 

Subhash Kak is the Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering 
and Professor in the Asian Studies Program at Louisiana State University in 
Baton Rouge. His research interests include foundations of physics and infor- 
mation, cognitive science, history of science, and Vedic studies. His recent 
books are The Astronomical Code of the Rgveda, The Wishing Tree, The Gods 
Within, and The Architecture of Knowledge. He has also published several 
books of poems. 

Jonathan Mark Kenoyer is Professor of Anthropology, and teaches archaeology 
and ancient technology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has a BA 
in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and completed 
his MA and PhD (1983) in south Asian archaeology at the same university. He 
has conducted archaeological research and excavations at both Mohenjo-daro 
and Harappa, two of the most important early sites in Pakistan, and has also 
worked in western and central India. Since 1986 he has been the Co-director 
and Field Director of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project in 
Pakistan, a long-term study of urban development in the Indus Valley. His 
work is most recently featured in the July 2003 issue of Scientific American 
and on the website 

B. B. Lai served as the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India from 
1968 to 1972. In the latter year, he took voluntary retirement from that coveted 
post, better to pursue his research programs independently. Soon thereafter he 
joined Jiwaji University, Gwalior, as Professor and Head of the School of Studies 
in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. In 1976 he moved on to the 
renowned Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, of which he was also the 
Director for a number of years, finally retiring in 1986. He has held prestigious 


visiting lectureships at the University of Chicago and University of London, and 
in 1994 he was awarded an honorary degree by the Institute of Archaeology 
(St Petersberg), Academy of Sciences, Russia. The same year he was elected the 
President of World Archaeological Congress-3, held in Delhi. He has also been 
President and Member of several Committees of UNESCO. 

Carl C. Lamberg-Karlovsky received his PhD from the University of 
Pennsylvania and then worked as the Director of Archaeological Survey in Syria 
as well as at the Director of Excavations at Tempe Yahya in southeastern Iran. 
There he has been engaged in collaborative excavations in the Turkmenistan, 
Uzbekistan, and the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia. In 1999 he launched 
what is anticipated as a long-term excavation of the site of Panj Piye in 
Balochistan, Pakistan, a major urban Bronze Age settlement. Dr Lamberg- 
Karlovsky's current research interests are in the cultural interaction and trade 
patterns that brought distant centers into contact such as Mesopotamia, the Gulf, 
and Central Asia. Dr Lamberg-Karlovsky is the Director of Graduate Studies for 
Stephen Phillips, Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. 

Diane A. Lichtenstein received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin, 
Madison, in 1977 and is Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Baldwin- Wallace 
College and the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio. Her dissertation 
research, conducted among the Langi of northern Uganda in 1970-72, focused 
on village social dynamics in the context of the advent of national military rule. 
She has participated in archaeological fieldwork in Egypt, Pakistan, and India and 
has maintained a long-term research interest in South Asian prehistory. She has 
co-authored several articles with Jim G. Shaffer, which focus on archaeological 
details of the Indus Valley (Harappan) civilization. 

Satya Swarup Misra was Professor of Indology and Linguistics at the Benaras 
Hindu University. He was the author of many books on comparative Indo- 
European linguistics, including New Lights on Indo-European Comparative 
Grammar (1996); The Aryan Problem: A Linguistic Approach (1992); The Old 
Indo-Aryan: A Historical and Comparative Grammar (1991); and Avestan: 
A Historical and Comparative Grammar (1979). 

Asko Parpola PhD, is Professor of Indology at the Institute for Asian and African 
Studies at the University of Helsinki. He has published several books and over 
one hundred articles on the Indus civilization; Indus script and religion; 
Vedic ritual, particularly the Samaveda and the Jaiminiya Samaveda texts and 
rituals; the religious history and archaeology of South India; the prehistory 
of Indian languages, and the prehistoric archaeology of South Asia and (in a 
broad sense) Central Asia. His home page with a list of publications is: 

Laurie L. Patton is Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities 
and Professor of Early Indian Religions at Emory University. Her interests 


are in the interpretation of early Indian ritual and narrative, comparative 
mythology, and literary theory in the study of religion. She is author or editor 
of six books and thirty articles in these fields. Most recently, she is the editor 
of Jewels of Authority: Women and Text in the Hindu Tradition (2002), and the 
author of a book on the use of poetry in Vedic ritual, Bringing the Gods to 
Mind (University of California Press, 2004). Her book of poetry, Fire's Goal: 
Poems from a Hindu Year (2003) will be followed by a translation of the 
Bhagavad Gita (forthcoming) from Penguin Press Classics. 

Jim G. Shaffer received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 
1972 and is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve 
University, Cleveland, Ohio. His academic career focus on South Asian 
prehistory began with his dissertation research of Bronze Age Afghanistan, 
detailed in Prehistoric Baluchistan: A Systematic Approach. Additionally, he 
has conducted extensive archaeological f ieldwork at Bronze Age and Neolithic 
sites in Pakistan and in north and south India. He is author of numerous 
articles analyzing details of the Indus Valley (Harappan) civilization and other 
cultures of South and Southwest Asia, with a research emphasis on the origin 
and processes of domestication, metallurgy, urbanization and state formation, 
and archaeological application of the concept of paleoethnicity and paleogroup 

Shrikant G. Talageri was educated in Bombay where he lives and works. He has 
been interested in wildlife, comparative music, religion and philosophy, 
history and culture, and linguistics. He has made a special study of the Konkani 
language, his mother tongue. He has devoted several years, and much study, 
to the theory of an Aryan invasion of India, and interpreted the Vedas with 
the help of the Puranas. He is the author of The Aryan Invasions Theory: 
A Reappraisal (1993) and The Rig Veda: A Historical Analysis (2000). 

Michael Witzel is the Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University. He 
received his PhD from the University of Erlangen in 1972 and has continued 
to work in the fields of Indology, Indo-European, Indo-Iranian philology and 
linguistics, and Japanology In addition to teaching positions at the University 
of Tuebingen and the University of Leiden, he has taught at the Sanskrit 
Campus, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, and served as the Director of the 
Nepal Research Center of the German Oriental Society. He has served as the 
chief editor of the Indo-Iranian Journal, and, since 1990 he has been the editor 
of the Harvard Oriental Series as well as the founding editor of Electronic 
Journal for Vedic Studies. He is the author or editor of over 100 articles and 
books in early Indian history and philology. 


This volume has been very long in incubation. Since its inception, arguments have 
been refined and conducted across the ethernet in a myriad of ways. We would like 
to thank the participants of the original panel of the American Academy of 
Religion, 1998: Frederick M. Smith, Beatrice Reusch, George Thompson, as well 
as the two editors. Their thoughts and contributions at that panel gave us the inspi- 
ration to gather together a body of literature that is rigorous and yet accessible to 
Indologists and their students from a variety of subfields, and that represented a 
variety of scholars in their own voices. Our hope is that this volume will provide a 
new template for inquiry into Aryan origins, and perhaps even a new impetus 
for an international consensus on scholarly methods and common questions. All 
the colonialist and nationalist motives have already been suspected and attributed; 
perhaps now we can get down to work. 

Editorial assistance was provided ably by Michelle Roberts and Joy Wasson in 
various stages of preparation of this manuscript. Special thanks go to Russell 
Cambron, who has spent innumerable hours standardizing references and following 
through on small editorial details. Jonathan Price has given us indefatigable editorial 
grounding and inspiration, even as Curzon passed through its own transitions into 
Routledge. Since the beginning of this project, Dr S. S. Misra has passed away, and 
we honor his work with the posthumous publication of his essay in this volume. 


Laurie L. Patton 

In June of 1997, at a celebration of the twenty-first birthday of a young man in an 
upper middle-class neighborhood in Bombay, a high school teacher was heard to 
say, "The Indo-Europeans! No one believes in those anymore. They've been 
disproven by Indian scholars for decades now." Six months later, at an academic 
reception in New York City, a well-known intellectual raised his eyebrows when 
asked about the indigenous Aryan theory, and said: "Those theories coming out of 

India? Pure, unreasoned polemics " There were more than oceans separating 

these views, but also on both sides a dismissive unwillingness to engage in the 
debate, and clear assumptions about the motivations of the other point of view. 

In Indological studies, we now exist in an era where one's use of evidence is 
inevitably suspect of being linked to nationalist, colonialist, or cultural agendas. 
If one is "Western," one is suspect of neocolonialism or Orientalism. If one is 
"Indian," one is suspect of nationalism or Marxism. If one is the wrong color, and 
takes the wrong point of view, one is suspect of being co-opted by the false 
consciousness of the other side. 

No issue is more illustrative of this impasse than the debate about Aryan 
origins. Until recently, publications by Indo-Europeanists and Indigenous 
Aryanists have continued on with very little conversation between the opponents, 
and great opportunity for creating straw men on both sides. The purpose of this 
volume is to present various sides of the arguments in their own voices, as well 
as provide a kind of template for the basic issues involved. Recent public debate 
has allowed for some direct contact between sparring partners; it is the point of 
view of the editors of the present volume that more juxtaposition of views, more 
contact, and more agreement on the rules of evidence is necessary. This book is 
one small step in that direction. 

The chapters represent a huge diversity of opinion, and by no means fully 
representative of all the voices in the debate. Rather, we have chosen articles that 
raise certain important issues that deserve further scrutiny. It is our expectation that 
both sides of the debate will find us overly accepting and affirming of the other 
side. (Given the acrimonious and over-determined nature of much of the discussion 
to date, we think it best to view this anticipated critique as an intellectual virtue, and 
proof that we have represented the state of things fairly accurately.) 



There is no way out of this impasse, except by taking extraordinarily difficult 
and small steps. Such steps involve several elements: agreeing upon rules of 
evidence and abiding by those rules; allowing a hypothesis to remain exactly 
that, and not become an automatic claim; allowing a challenge to be answered, 
and not simply be taken for an automatic demolishing of a theory. Scholars might 
make the daring move of allowing the questions themselves to unite, rather than 
suspicions divide them. 

The chapters 

How might one make sense of the massive amount of data in this volume? Most 
South Asianists do not have the time to master it, and yet they feel the pressure of 
the controversy weighing down on them in everyday scholarly intersections with 
colleagues and students, such as the ones described earlier. Let me begin with a 
basic description of the arguments of the chapters. 

Part I, "Archaeology" addresses some of the recent findings and arguments in 
these areas. Part II, "Archaeology and Linguistics," takes on some of the linguistic 
issues in the debate, particularly those of linguistic borrowing and parent languages. 
Part III, "Philology and Linguistics," takes up the related concerns of interpreta- 
tion of texts and their historical contexts. Part IV, "Historiography," comprises 
articles that give both histories of the debates, as well as assessments of the state 
of the current arguments and their ideological roots. 

Mark Kenoyer begins Part I with his chapter, "Culture Change during the Late 
Harappan period at Harappa: New Insights on Vedic Aryan Issues." He argues that, 
on the basis of new archaeological research, there is evidence for cultural change 
in the Late Harappan period (1900-1700 bce). Kenoyer is clear that there is no 
evidence for the use of the horse by the occupants of the Late Harappan cities and 
towns. This would mitigate against the idea that Indus Valley and Aryan culture 
were one and the same. He does argue, however, that there are significant changes 
in burial practices and new decorative motifs of on pottery, "indicating that some 
of those urban communities had developed new ideologies that were inconsistent 
with the religious practices of early Harappan communities (pp. 43^4)." New use 
of material for bead technology also suggests the emergence of a new elite. 

Given that there seems to be no significant change in population during this 
period, Kenoyer thinks that the archaeological data reflect social, economic, 
and ideological restructuring that involved previously marginal communities. 
These communities cannot be called "Aryan" or "non-Aryan," but it is also clear 
that these terms do not even represent a single community in the Veda. Kenoyer 
acknowledges that there is moreover clearly no support for the idea of invasion 
and destruction of cities and towns. He goes on to state that it is equally wrong 
to conclude that the Indus Valley inhabitants were Aryans; the total absence of 
writing in the Vedic system precludes this. He does suggest that the absence of 
writing in the Late Harappan period, combined with the change in decorative motifs 
and burial practices are consonant with Vedic culture. He goes on to speculate 


that it is not improbable that some Vedic communities were passing through 
Harappan towns, some of which were named in the Vedas. Kenoyer ends by argu- 
ing that more research needs to be done on human remains, as none of this 
evidence is conclusive. But the necessity of building a transitional chronology is 

In "Aryan Invasion of India: Perpetuation of a Myth," B. B. Lai begins by 
tracing first the intellectual history of the idea of an Aryan invasion, beginning 
with William Jones and moving through Max Mueller and Mortimer Wheeler. As 
he argues, there is no evidence of attacks on the citadels of the Harappan cities, 
which would be the first structures to be destroyed in the case of an attack. Second 
many of the skeletal remains are from a lower level of buildings, not what one 
would expect in the case of warriors fallen in a battle. His view is that Harappa 
gradually transformed itself into the later Rangpur culture. Still, for Lai, ideas 
from the Aryan invasion theory remain. For instance, arguments about the place- 
ment and dating of the drying up of the Sarasvati river, which are relevant to 
the debate due to its prominence both in the Rgveda literary record and the 
Harappan archaeological record, still hinge on whether one believes the Sarasvati 
mentioned in the texts should be placed inside or outside of India. The 
Gagghar-Sarasvati River complex has been studied through Landsat imagery 
(Yash Pal et al. 1984) and tentative conclusions are that it supported a lush and 
more fluid eco-system before drying up. 

Lai goes on to say that, as early as 1951, and then more convincingly in the 
1980s, studies have pointed to evidence of gradual evolution from the Seventh 
millennium onward in Baluchistan. This evolution moved from Neolithic to 
Chalcolithic culture to Bronze Age culture. This area distinguishes itself from 
Western Asian culture by a particular emphasis on barley (and not as much wheat) 
and on cattle (and not as much sheep and goats). Metal tools replaced stone, gran- 
aries emerged (4500 bce), and the mature Harappan civilization (3000 bce) 
included street designs and distinctive pottery. Seals and script emerged in 2600 
bce. By the second millennium bce, a degeneration due to climate change, agricul- 
tural over extension, a decline in trade, and the drying of the Sarasvati began to 
force the civilization into decline. Moreover, Hemphill et al. (1991) provide bio- 
logical evidence in the continuity of cranial structure of skeletons in this area, with 
interaction between Iran and the South Asian subcontinent. Despite the strength of 
the evidence, Lai argues that some historians still cling to the invasion theory, "in 
disguised" garb, as migration or as contacts between pastoral herders. 

Yet Lai is also cautious in moving to the assumption that Aryans were the 
authors of Harappan civilization. He shows that none of the claims to decipher 
Indus Valley seals meets the criterion of a consistent reading of all the seals - 
whether the claim is that the seals were Dravidian or Aryan. Moreover, if the Indus 
Valley inhabitants were Dravidian people that moved southward there is a lack of 
archaeological and place-name evidence along their hypothesized route southward 
to make that a convincing possibility. Finally, Lai argues that in the Rgveda, 
the Aryans showed evidence of being urban, not just pastoral peoples. He finishes 


by saying that, given the evidence of Naushuro and Lothal, the possibility of the 
presence of the horse cannot be ruled out. More work needs to be done in order 
for any of these hypotheses to be convincing. 

Finally, in "South Asian Archaeology and the Myth of Indo-Aryan Invasions," 
Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein describe the basic ways in which archaeolo- 
gists begin building their cases: basic potsherds, pots in situ, stone tools, flora and 
fauna remains, and human remains. Stratigraphic chronology is measured against 
carbon dating. Given the aggregate of these basic building blocks, they argue that 
the migration/invasion hypothesis of people needs to be assessed against newer 
archaeological data. Basing their analysis on recent findings over the last two 
decades, they argue that South Asian prehistory shows a cultural complexity and 
urbanization process that develops over a long chronology based on indigenous, 
but not isolated, cultural innovations. The excavations at Mehrgarh, for example, 
establish food production technologies as an indigenous Indus Valley phenomenon 
that requires neither migration nor invasion as an explanatory paradigm. So, too 
Harappan culture is a result of indigenous cultural developments but stood among 
several culturally similar but distinct neighbors with whom they traded both 
directly and indirectly. It was a cultural mosaic responding to particular ecological 
changes affecting the greater Indus Valley area from the third millennium bce to 
the first millennium bce. This was a combination of increasing aridity and the 
capture of Gagghar-Hakra (aka Sarasvati) River system by adjacent rivers, so that 
these waters were diverted eastward. 

Shaffer and Lichtenstein go on to assess different areas in terms of their popu- 
lation and settlement changes in Harappan civilization. In Cholistan, there is a 
48 percent decline in the Late Harappan period, and by the first millennium bce 
an 83 percent decline. They conjecture that this may have been a cultural response 
to the crisis of the river changes and climactic changes mentioned earlier. 
Relatedly, in the eastern Punjab, there is a significant population influx in the area 
with a 304 percent increase in settlements over a similar period. In central 
Haryana, there is a 98 percent increase in habitation sites between the Harappan 
and the Late Harappan periods, and then perhaps a growing occupational stabil- 
ity which led to a stabler pattern. Sindh reflects a pattern similar to Cholistan, and 
Gujarat reflects a pattern similar to Haryana. Finally, the authors mention that one 
archaeological site of Bhagwanpura seems to link the Late Harappan and the 
subsequent Painted Gray Ware periods, associated with the traditional "Aryan" 
groups. However, they argue that there is much more work to be done on the precise 
nature of these continuities. 

In sum, Shaffer and Lichtenstein argue for considerably more cultural continu- 
ity for early South Asian history, and further argue against historical linguistic 
scholars who try to link culture, race, and population movements in their recon- 
struction of a proto-Indo-European language, linking that language to a home- 
land, and defining population migration away from that seminal geographical 
base. Instead, they propose an Indo-Gangetic cultural tradition. In contrast to 
the idea of discontinuity based on outside influences, they think that there was 


significant indigenous discontinuity, which can be indexed to geological 
and environmental changes in the period. They conjecture that this may be the 
migration so focused on in ancient oral Vedic tradition. 

Part II titled "Archaeology and Linguistics," begins with Asko Parpola and 
Christian Carpelan's chapter "The Cultural Counterparts to Proto-Indo-European, 
Proto-Yralic and Proto-Aryan." Their contribution is to sketch out a scenario in 
which the archaeological data matches the cultural and linguistic data in the hypothe- 
ses of Indo-European expansion. They argue first through etymological data, and 
then through archaeological discussion, that Indo-European and Uralic proto- 
languages were both spoken in the archaeological cultures of Eastern Europe. 
Building on the work of David Anthony (1995, 1998), they also attempt to correlate 
Indo-European and Uralic linguistic groups with archaeological cultures. They see 
the invention of the wheel as the terminus post quern of the earliest dispersal of the 
Indo-European culture, as it is shared by all Indo-European languages. The parent 
language that gave birth to proto-Indo-European was the Khvalynsk culture in the 
mid- Volga region (500CM1500 bce). According to their scenario, the Khvalynsk 
culture spread east and west, intersecting with Uralic speaking peoples (8500 bce). 

In the southern Ukraine, the authors hypothesize that a proto-Indo-European 
culture was born from this Khvalynsk culture. They suggest that the Srednij Stog 
culture expanded after the wheel was invented in 3500 bce, and expanded into the 
Pit Grave culture. In their view, Early Pit Grave culture gave rise to two subse- 
quent cultures, the middle Dneiper and the Corded Ware cultural complex. The 
expanding Corded Ware to the northwest gave rise to Italo-Celtic, proto-Baltic, 
Slavic, and proto-Germanic. The Corded Ware culture also expanded into rural 
Russia, also creating distinct subcultures and interactions between Indo-European 
groups and proto-Uralic speaking groups. 

This scenario is a background for Parpola's and Carpelan's new hypothesis of the 
split between Indo-Aryans and Indo-Iranians. According to their scenario, Eastern 
Pit Grave cultures (2200-1800 bce) thrived in the southern Urals and developed 
horse-drawn chariots; this was called the Sintashta-Arkaim culture and was made up 
of two dialects: Poltavka in the west (pre-proto-Iranian) and Abashevo (pre-proto- 
Indo- Aryan) in the east. The split where these two dialects became more marked and 
distinct from each other must have occurred in 1800 bce. At this time the Ural River 
became the border between them. Moving westward, the Indo-Iranian speaking 
groups developed their characteristic 'h' change from Indo-European 's' words. The 
Indo-Iranian speaking group was called the Timber Grave culture, and was able to 
expand into central Asia through the use of horses. The proto-Indo-Aryan speakers 
were the rulers of the Mitanni Kingdom - famous for its seals which name the five 
Indo-European deities. According to Parpola and Carpelan, they in all likelihood 
came to Syria from southern central Asia and northern Iran. A recent find in 
Tajikistan shows an aristocratic warrior with accouterments that are clearly 
Sintashta-Arkaim in nature (Bobomulloev 1999). Thus, this hypothesis would bring 
the Sintashta-Arkaim culture to the borders of South Asia in which the horse-drawn 
chariot played a central role in the Vedic-Aryans' movements and cultures. 


C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky's chapter, "Archaeology and Language: The Case of 
the Bronze Age Indo-Europeans," also addresses the theories of the last few 
decades about Androvono (which Parpola and Carpelan call the Sintashta-Arkaim) 
culture, as well as the Bactrian Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC). He 
is particularly concerned with the possibility of either culture being identified as 
positively Indo-Iranian speaking. Unlike Parpola and Carpelan, he is interested 
not in creating possible scenarios of links between archaeological and linguistic 
cultures, but on showing the lack of evidence for most of them. 

Focusing particularly on Russian archaeologists (such as the recent works of 
E. E. Kuzmina), he argues that while there are many general parallels to be 
made between Androvono culture and Indo-Iranian ideas, such as the emphasis on 
the horse, the pattern of large houses, and so on, there is no specific archaeolog- 
ical evidence for Androvono culture reaching or influencing the cultures of 
Northern India or Iran in the second millennium - the date by which it should 
have reached these areas if the traditional Indo-Iranian scenario is played out. As 
he suggests, there is no archaeological evidence for the horse in Iran until the very 
late second millennium bce, and in South Asia in the 1700 bce. (We have seen 
some suggestions of earlier dates, but there is no scholarly consensus on this 
issue.) Lamberg-Karlovsky also argues that, despite the euphoria of recent 
discoveries such as that of Arkhaim, insufficient attention has been paid to 
the dramatic variations within Androvono culture, and the relative chronological 
dating of these variations. 

The BMAC culture, excavated by the Soviets in the last two decades in 
Afghanistan, however, is a slightly different story. Houses and forts, temples and 
palaces contain parallels in Iran as well as other parts of South Asia, and BMAC 
seems to be basically contemporaneous with Androvono culture. Archaeologists 
generally agree that the question of contact between BMAC and Androvono is 
paramount, and many argue that such contact was possible and proveable, even if 
the nature of the contact (trade, domination, warfare) is impossible to determine. 
What is more, the use of ephedra as a kind of mild intoxicant (hernial soma), the 
presence of animal sacrifice and fire altars have inspired scholars to argue for an 
Indo-Iranian and proto-Zoroastrian identity of the BMAC. 

And yet here is the final paradox for Lamberg-Karlovsky: the only intrusive 
archaeological culture that directly influences Iran and India is the BMAC, but it 
remains impossible to link the BMAC with the developments of the later second 
and first millennium archaeological cultures on the Irian Plateau. Lamberg- 
Karlovsky ends with a plea for restraint on simplified notions of an archaeological 
culture identified with an ethnic group. Most of these identifications are in his view 
no more than mere speculations with political agendas. Archaeological cultures 
tend to proceed in linear fashion, whereas many different simultaneous factors may 
influence linguistic change, and many different languages can co-exist in a single 
society with a single archaeological record. 

Satya Swarup Misra's (posthumously published) article, "The Date of the Rgveda 
and the Aryan Migration: Fresh Linguistic Evidence," begins Part III, "Philology 


and Linguistics." He argues for an early linguistic date of 5000 bce for the 
Rgveda, matching the linguistic archaism of Sanskrit. He posits that, since no 
other Indo-European language can be traced to such an early date, India might 
well be the original home of Aryans. He introduces the evidence of the Gypsy 
languages, which originated in India, as further evidence in this regard arguing 
that the sound changes they exhibit are consistent with earlier sound changes 
differentiating Sanskrit (which he holds to be the Indo-European language closest 
to the proto-language), from the other Indo-European languages. 

Building on S. R. Rao's reading of the Indus Valley seals, he takes the language 
of these seals to be a transitional language from Old Indo- Aryan to Middle Indo- 
Aryan, comparable to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. (As Edwin Bryant notes [2001: 
180], Rao's work is used in official government publicity, and therefore should be 
better addressed.) Misra also argues for a closer study of the relationship between 
Dravidian and Indo-Aryan words, with a view toward an affinity or common 
source. Following Harmatta (1981, 1992), he argues that Aryan loan words pres- 
ent in Uralic languages show the loans belong to an early age, which thus may not 
be Indo-Iranian but Indo-Aryan. Gypsy evidence shows more characteristically 
independent changes in different Indo-European language groups. Iranian lan- 
guages are less archaic, showing continuities with Middle Indo-Aryan, and 
Iranian language place names tend to refer to Aryan evidence. His analysis of 
Anatolian evidence proceeds on similar grounds. Misra also argues for a closer 
study of the relationship between Dravidian and Indo-Aryan, with a view towards 
a possible affinity. 

Koenraad Elst's chapter, "Linguistic Aspects of the Aryan Non-Invasion 
Theory," argues that, while the evidence is inconclusive, the Out of India 
Theory deserves a hearing. Like Misra, Elst's essay is based on acceptance of 
the linguistic paradigms of the academic guild. He argues that immigration 
theory must have involved some kind of military conquest, but points out that 
Shaffer and Litchenstein (1999) following Rao and Lai, argue that there is 
no archeological indication of Aryan immigration post Harappa. Even inva- 
sionists like Ratnagar admit that there is no evidence, even though she also 
argues that in other cultures parallels of no archeological evidence for invasion 
also exist. Hock (1999) also affirms that the lack of horse evidence is of 
significance for our understanding of Aryan culture. Elst responds that the 
paucity of horse evidence does not rule out the Out of India Theory, as the 
comparable evidence for Aryan culture is also weak. Elst goes on to argue 
that those critics of the Out of India theory who dismiss evidence do not accept 
the fact that linguistic rules are far more rigorous than ancient archeological 
ones, as archaeologist David Anthony (1991) also admits. Elst argues that the 
palatization of words, usually a one-way process, allows for the possibility that 
the homeland was originally in India and not outside. The discovery of groups 
in India with palatization suggests this possibility. He goes on to say that 
archaic laryngeal features of Hittite also do not prove that Hittite was older and 
closer to proto-Indo-European. 


Elst also answers Hock's observation that the dialectological relationships and 
the lateral sharing of isoglosses between linguistic groups suggest an origin outside 
of India. Elst posits another scenario, where the same linguistic changes could 
have reflected successive waves of migration out of India, and the lateral changes 
post-migration changes, rather than signs of proto-Indo-European status. The 
expansion might have also included native influence of Indo-European speakers; in 
addition, Elst argues other examples in history show a singular direction of move- 
ment. Moreover, what Indo-Europeanists argue are foreign origins of words may 
well be spontaneous variations without adstratal or substratal influence. While he 
acknowledges the scholarly consensus that Dravidian seems to have been 
eliminated as a source for the Harappan language, Elst argues against too much 
dependence on the idea of borrowing from Munda or para-Munda languages. 
If we do accept borrowing, he argues, it may well be that such borrowing is not 
an influence of a substratum language in a superimposed foreign language. It is 
possible that the absorption of foreign words could have taken place after the 
emigration of other branches of Indo-Europeans from India. 

Finally, Elst argues that linguistic paleontology - "flora and fauna" words which 
all Indo-Europeans share - is not necessarily proof of their Northern geographical 
area of origin. Northern words are shared in India, too, and many animal names 
are indigenous or metaphoric extensions and not necessarily proof of proto-Indo- 
European status. Elst finishes with studies of contact with other languages, again 
concluding that the evidence does not rule out the Out of India hypothesis. 

Hans Hock's article, "Philology and the Historical Interpretation of the Vedic 
Texts," begins the related section on philology and interpretation. Hock also takes 
up the question of internal Vedic evidence. He examines five different cases of 
Vedic interpretation and a related case of Avestan interpretation concerned with 
the problem of Aryan origins. First he takes on the idea that Vedic references to 
outsiders indicate that the outsiders' speech was influenced by Dravidian. Hock 
argues that, if anything, such statements refer to ritually impure speech, rather 
than dialectical Dravidian influence. Second, the idea that Rgveda passages refer 
to racial differences between arya and dasa is also not supportable, as most of the 
passages may not refer to dark or light skinned people, but dark and light worlds. 
Other words, such as, anas (noseless) may well be interpreted as mouthless, or 
possessing bad speech, and bull-lipped (vrsasipra) may not necessarily be a 
negative characteristic. 

Third, the Vedic passages suggesting immigration from outside are in Hock's 
mind ambiguous, as neither their "directionality" nor their geographical referents, 
are assured. Relatedly, the Avestan arguments for migration out of India are not 
convincing. It is not clear whether the regions named in the Avesta as "having 
been abandoned" refer to the South Asian places that Out of India theorists claim, 
nor do they necessarily refer to an outside origin at all. 

The fifth case, of astronomical evidence, evaluates the Kausltaki Brahmana 
passage of how the new moon of Magha and the winter solstice could have 
coincided. This observation involves a large tolerance of variation in fixing 


the time, so much so that variations of 576 and 1950 years are possible. It is, 
moreover, impossible to adjudicate between various scholarly claims of its accu- 
racy. Finally, Hock evaluates the claim that brahman means a solstice. He argues 
that it is not clear from the textual evidence that brahman can mean a solstice; 
nothing in the relevant passages actually calls for an astronomical interpretation. 
All of these arguments, Hock is careful to note, may be resolved by further 
evidence; for the present, he argues that it is more appropriate to wait for further 
evidence than use any of the evidence to support a particular claim. They are, at 
present, unresolvable. 

In "Vedic astronomy and Early Indian Chronology," Subhash Kak argues that 
astronomical evidence {jyotisa) can be used for dating Vedic chronology, along 
with philological measures and standards. After establishing the presence of 
jyotisa in the Vedas, Kak goes on to show that altars were used as symbolic rep- 
resentations of knowledge. Using Frankfort's date of 1900 bce for the drying up 
of the Sarasvati River, he argues that the Vedic references to this phenomenon 
should place the Rgveda as at least that old. Vedic ritual was based on times for 
the full and the new moon, the solstices and the equinoxes. The Vedic year was 
divided into lunar year of 358 days, or 360 and 5 days. Lists of naksatras (lunar 
asterisms) were also present in the Vedic works, and served as the names of the 
months. According to Kak, dates can be calculated backwards on the basis of the 
months shifting about 2000 years per naksatra. The changes in the lists of 
naksatras in Vedic texts can help us date the Veda. 

Other examples of Rgvedic astronomical sophistication, according to Kak, 
are the texts' understanding of the irregular motions of the moon and the sun, the 
occurrences of the equinoxes, and the descriptions of solar eclipses. From his 
calculations of the position of the vernal equinoxes in the naksatras, Kak argues 
that the Vedic people were in India during the "RohinI" period of 4000 bce. If one 
proceeds with an astronomical interpretation of the story of Prajapati in the form 
of a stag (Orion) pursuing his daughter, RohinI, then one can argue that this 
period represents the astronomical time when the vernal equinox was moving 
from Mrga Siras to RohinI. 

Shrikant Talageri's chapter, "The Textual Evidence: The Rgveda as a Source 
of Indo-European History," also argues for an earlier date of the Rgveda. 
Talageri's contribution in this volume is a summary of his book, in which he 
argues that the uniquely primitive and representative character of Vedic mythol- 
ogy is totally incompatible with a theory which treats the Rgveda as the end- 
product of long and complete events and circumstances. According to him, there 
could not have been a long period of separation from the original Indo-European 
homeland, racial transformations en route, a long stay in Punjab, and then the 
development of a uniquely Indian language. Based on his analysis of internal ref- 
erents to ancestors and kings in the Rgveda, he proposes a new chronological 
order of the books. From earliest to latest, he proposes the order of 6, 3, 7, 4, 2, 
5, 8, 9, 10, with book 1 stretching from the pre -middle to late periods. The geo- 
graphical referents in each of these books, he argues, show the earliest books in 


Uttar Pradesh and the later in the Punjab. The battles of "the ten kings" in the 
Rgveda refers to a battle between the Vedic Aryans, settled east of the Sarasvati, 
and Iranian groups (the Vedic "Arm" tribes), settled west of the Sarasvati. 

In his chapter, "Indocentrism: Autochthonous Visions of Ancient India," 
Michael Witzel begins by examining the positive evidence for the scholarly views 
currently agreed upon by Indo-Europeanists. The Rgveda does not know of large 
cities but only ruins and forts; thus we can argue that the text is later than the dis- 
integration of the cities. He further argues that the Rgveda is earlier than the 
appearance of iron in 1200-1000 bce, as Rgveda does not know iron, but only 
copper/bronze metal. If one strictly observes Indo-European rules of linguistic 
change and archaeological dating, the Mittani gods represent an earlier linguistic 
form of around 1400 bce. Witzel argues that the western relatives of the Indo- 
Aryans, the Parsumas, and the people of the Mittani culture were all intrusive 
cultures, and they share much with the Indo-Aryan culture. He posits a long 
period of initial acculturation, most likely between Old-Indo-Aryan speakers and 
those speakers of the local language in the Punjab. 

Witzel goes on to assert that if one follows Indo-European rules of linguistic 
change, the substratum words of local languages could not be Indo-European, thus 
ruling out the possibility of Indo-Aryan indigenous origins. Scholars who claim 
that such words have Indo-European origins, even though they were previously 
thought to be substratum words, are simply not following well-accepted linguistic 
procedures. Moreover, Witzel argues that a truly Vedic archaeological site would 
have to include several factors all at once - chariots, horse furnishing, three fire 
places, specific settlement patterns, tools of stone and copper, gold and silver orna- 
ments, local pottery, barley, milk, and some wild animals. The site that best fits 
this description is Swat, c.1400 bce known in the Rgveda (8.19.37). Thus, pottery 
styles alone, he argues, cannot support the autochthonous Aryan argument. 

Witzel, too, dismisses the old hordes of invaders model as an outdated, 
nineteenth-century view; he turns instead to Ehret's theory of culture change, in 
which cultural and linguistic shifts can happen with the coming of a relatively 
small group who make choices in new prestige equipment and vocabulary 
(Ehret's "prestige kit"). Pottery, even in moments of great change, does tend to be 
continuous; this would explain the archaeological data in which pottery styles 
remain continuous. 

Witzel then turns to the denial of this theory by three different groups: 

(1) the indigenous school, who see the Indo-Aryans originating from the Punjab; 

(2) the Out of India school, which views Iranians emigrating from the 
Punjab; (3) and the devabhasya school which claims that all the Indo-European 
languages originated from Sanskrit. Focusing mostly on the first two, Witzel 
begins by saying that interaction between Aryans and indigenous groups has been 
assumed for decades by linguists and historians; the assertion by these theorists is 
nothing new. Rather, he argues that the indigenous school's use of archaeological 
arguments for cultural continuity is too narrow and cited out of context. Moreover 
he argues that the indigenous theorists also need to explain archaeological, 



linguistic, textual and astronomical data in a general framework in order to 
become credible as a general framework. He goes on to critique the linguistic 
methods used by these theorists, saying that such methods are not based on regu- 
larity of linguistic shifts nor on the possibility of predicting language shifts. 
Moreover, the indigenous theories' sources for early history are based on later 
texts such as the Puranas, taken as fact and read back into the Rgveda itself. 
Moreover, the evidence such as Misra's for an early date for the Rgveda (5000 
bce) mistakenly relies on Harmatta (1992) whose date for proto-Finno-Ugric has 
been challenged by scholars. Moreover, the proponents of a common South Asian 
proto-language of Sanskrit and Dravidian confuse the outcome of borrowings 
from a long stay together, and genetic descent, which involves similarities in basic 
grammar and vocabulary. 

Turning to the Out of India Theory, Witzel argues that such a theory would 
need both to explain historically and to predict the linguistic changes according 
to known phenomena of linguistic expansion as well as linguistic origin. 
Moreover, Witzel goes on to say that if we accept the Out of India Theory, the 
dialectical differences hypothesized in proto-Indo-European, now originating in 
India, would have to have been reproduced exactly all over Europe and the Near 
East. This is a highly unlikely scenario. Finally, Witzel goes on to show there are 
very few typically Indian characteristics in languages occurring west of India. 
They do not possess Indian grammatical features, nor words for plants, animals, 
or technology. The Out of India Theory cannot explain why none of these features 
survive. This is especially the case with retroflection; there is an absence of 
retroflex sounds in Old Iranian, whereas it is typical for South Asia compared 
with its neighboring regions. In Old Iranian, there is also an absence of local 
Indian words and grammatical innovations, and there is no evidence of Indian 
skeletons, which look very different from Western ones. Finally, Witzel argues 
that the autochthonous theory would have the Rgveda anywhere from 5000 bce or 
2600 bce; therefore the Iranians should have exported the horse-drawn chariot 
from South Asia at that time. However, the horse-drawn chariot is only found in 
2000 bce in Ural Russia and at Sintashta, discussed by Parpola and Carpelan. 
Thus, Witzel states the word and the object itself would have occurred before its 
invention. The same case goes for the wheel. In addition, Witzel argues that the 
changes of Centum languages and Satem languages follow a clear pattern in the 
Indo-European scenario; such changes would become nonsensical if they were 
reversed in the Out of India scenario. Thus the Out of India Theory requires a 
multiple special pleading that no other scientist would tolerate. Witzel argues that 
its assertions are monolateral, and not holistic. 

With this rich background in place, Part IV continues with the historiography 
of the contemporary debates themselves. In his "Aryan Origins: Arguments from 
Nineteenth-century Maharashtra," Madhav Deshpande uses little known details to 
analyze the history of the debate about Aryan origins in nineteenth-century 
Maharashtra. He does so by analyzing several factors: (1) the sense of Brahmin 
identity as one of only two classes (Brahmin and Sudras); (2) the emerging British 



attempts to promote a certain kind of Sanskrit learning; (3) the counterclaims of 
such Brahmins to reassert traditional learning; (4) and the education of the non- 
Brahmin groups. Deshpande begins with the moderate R. G. Bhandarkar who 
accepted much of Indo-European philology, but attempted to develop a historical 
idea of the development of Sanskrit into Pali, through contact with non- Aryans. 
Yet Bhandarkar's views raised the unsettling question of Aryan contact with 
non- Aryans in the process of migration, and the even more unsettling possibility 
of Aryan descent from peoples who would be considered non- Aryan today. 

Another theorist, M. M. Kunte, was similar to some contemporary theorists. He 
called the British "Western Aryas" and tried to focus on the racial affinity 
between colonizer and colonized. For Kunte, the original Aryan settled in India, 
while the Western Aryan settled only when he made a fortune. Similarly, the 
social reformer, M. G. Ranade, identifies the social customs of the British Aryans 
as continuities from the pure ancestral Aryan period, unaffected by the degrading 
influence of non- Aryans. So, too, the dilemma of Brahmin Aryan descent from 
non-Brahmin non-Aryan origins, and the divide between Aryan North and 
Dravidian South, posed a problem for Ranade 's nationalism. 

In contrast, Jotirao Phule, of the mail or "gardeners" caste, restudied Brahmin 
myths and epics and exposed them for their cruelty and subjugation. His nemesis, 
Vishnushastri Chiplunkar, waged an intellectual war against this Sudra perspective, 
as well as the British one. In the midst of all this debate, Deshpande observes that 
the now famous B. G. Tilak presented the least political views of his day. He based 
his scholarly evidence instead on the presence of constellations and their mention 
in various books of the Rgveda. Although Tilak did not discuss archeological or 
linguistic data, he did establish the Aryans as senior brothers to the Western Aryan 
British, who subjugated them. 

Finally, N. B. Pavgee was one of the first to argue for the "Out of India" model, 
basing his evidence on a scenario where the Arctic home was a colony of the orig- 
inal "Aryavasta home" in India. Deshpande argues that all of these ancestors of 
the Hindu nationalist movement were caught up, in some way or another, with 
their identities, both political and caste. 

Our final article before Edwin Bryant's "Concluding Remarks," is Lars Martin 
Fosse's "Aryan Past and Post-Colonial Present: The Polemics and Politics of 
Indigenous Aryanism." Fosse takes on four theorists of the Indigenous Aryan 
school, and, like Deshpande, examines their political perspectives. He is careful to 
point out that his concern is not to undermine all of the arguments challenging the 
present Indo-European perspective on Aryan origins, but rather to see how indige- 
nous Aryan arguments can function as an ideology as well as a set of academic 
challenges. He begins by discussing Dipesh Chakrabarty's Colonial Indology (1997), 
and argues that while Chakrabarty's critique of a biased European construction of 
the Indian past is at times appropriate, it is not balanced by constructive alterna- 
tives and is content with sowing seeds of doubt about scholarly motives of Western 
Indologists. He goes on to make the point that, given the hypothetical nature of 
Indo-European origins and its status as "inferred history," the nature of the evidence 



opens up a vast argumentative space in which contradictory hypotheses are 
admissible. Yet such a space also lends itself to a kind of emotional and polemic 
debate which compensates for a lack of conclusive data. 

Fosse goes on to analyze the work of K. D. Sethna, Bhagwan Singh, 
N. S. Rajaram, and Shrikant Talageri. Sethna responds to a paper by Asko Parpola 
(1988) which conjectures a set of complex migrations and interactions to account 
for Aryan culture. Many of their arguments are based on elements which will by 
now be familiar to readers - the early date of the Rgveda, new archaeological data 
describing the ecology of the Sarasvati River and Northwest India, the lack of 
textual evidence for an invasion, astronomical evidence based on the equinoxes, 
etc. While each of these authors have their own set of arguments which Fosse dis- 
cusses at length, he sees some moves which are common to all of the theorists: 
First, they tend to rely on arguments ex silencio, in which lack of evidence sub- 
stitutes for positive evidence; thus the lack of evidence for a migration or the 
questionable evidence for the presence of the horse previous to 1 600 bce cannot 
constitute positive arguments for an indigenous civilization. Second, they do not 
follow the established scholarly rules of linguistic derivation and etymology; thus, 
their arguments about the early date of the Rgveda or the relationship between 
Dravidian and Aryan languages do not hold credibility. 

Fosse continues his piece with a history of the various views of the Aryan/ 
Dravidian relationship. Theorists move along a continuum between the two extremes 
of establishing Tamil culture as the origins of the Aryan culture to the more Indigenist 
view that Aryan and Dravidian were part of a single Aryan identity, with Aryan 
designating culture unity and Dravidian simply indicating a "place." Talageri, for 
instance, assumes a common parentage for the two cultures and Kak assumes inter- 
action between the two groups in South Asia and a subsequent migration northward. 

Fosse concludes with a view that the ideological aspects of indigenous 
Aryanism come to full force with a challenge to the cultural and political Left in 
India - particularly its inability to give India the proper cohesion it needs in a post- 
colonial environment. He views it as a complex movement, partly motivated by 
caste and political interests, but also by a legitimate need to resist the colonial 
distortions that began in the nineteenth century. He argues that many of the move- 
ment's legitimate questions and challenges to Indo-European hypotheses are 
undermined by its political rhetoric. 

The issues 

Edwin Bryant's recent volume, The Quest for the Origins ofVedic Culture (2001), 
goes a long way toward summarizing these basic issues, and it is not worth 
rehearsing all the issues here done so masterfully in that volume. The basic terms 
of the argument are organized in his chapters: Vedic philology (including dating), 
linguistic substrata in India texts, linguistic evidence outside of India, archaeo- 
logical evidence, both within South Asia including the Indus Valley civilization, 
and outside subcontinent. 



How do these issues fare in the present volume? The issue of Vedic philology 
and dating is taken on by many of our authors - Misra, Talageri, Elst, Hock, and 
Witzel. Misra argues for an earlier date of the Veda based on three factors: the 
work of S. R. Rao's interpretation of the Indus Valley seals, the possibility of a 
closer relationship between Dravidian and Indo-Aryan words, and Harmatta's 
argument that Aryan loan words in Uralic languages show that the loans belong 
to an early age. Witzel takes on some of these arguments, questioning the viabil- 
ity of a connection between Dravidian and Indo-Aryan words, as well as remind- 
ing us that Harmatta's work has been corrected to suggest a later date for Uralic 
borrowings. Parpola and Carpelan, moreover, account for these borrowings in 
Uralic and Aryan by an entirely different scenario, which locates the homeland in 
Khvalynsk culture. Some response by those who agree with Misra 's arguments is 
now the next step. 

Talageri argues on the basis of reference to kings and ancestors for a reorder- 
ing of the books of the Veda. He is therefore working on the internal evidence 
alone for the basis of his theory. The next step might be: how might we assess this 
method for establishing chronology for the Vedic books, as opposed to the more 
traditional linguistic methods for establishing their chronology? Following 
Hock's insights on other internal Vedic arguments, are there other more traditional 
linguistic methods for ways to interpret the battle of the ten kings, or does 
Talageri 's view make the most sense out of the most data? 

Hock's examination of key internal evidence within the Veda is also helpful in 
shedding light on the issue at stake: why are we imputing meaning to distinctions 
in the Veda that may not be there, such as claiming the arya/dasa distinction as 
necessarily a racial distinction? Moreover, assertions about directionality based 
on internal Vedic evidence in either direction, are at best ambiguous, and the case 
cannot be made on internal Vedic evidence alone. Fosse's comments on some of 
the Indigenous Aryan school's use of Vedic evidence parallels these questions. 

The same issues arise with astronomical evidence. Hock questions the purely 
astronomical interpretation of certain Brahmana passages, particularly whether 
common words such as brahman can be interpreted as an astronomical term. The 
issue of astronomical dating and accuracy seems to depend, in part, on how one 
chooses to interpret certain Vedic passages that could be literary or scientific 
statements. Yet we might also take heed of Deshpande's observation that Tilak's 
use of astronomical evidence was an attempt to move beyond the entrenched and 
overly polemicized debates of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century day, and turn 
to more objective method of dating. In this volume, Hock also argues that the 
margin of error in astronomical calculation is too wide to come to any definitive 
conclusions. However, Kak is right to point out the astronomical sophistication 
of certain Vedic texts, particularly the fact that certain understandings of the 
naksatras in the Vedas seem to be astronomically accurate and important in the 
history of science. 

The question of linguistic adstratum and substratum influence is also key in 
this volume. We must understand that a substratum assumes that the dominant 



language overtook another less powerful language and absorbed words from it; 
while adstratum assumes mutual contact between languages. Witzel has 
argued against Dravidian presence in the earliest part of the Rgveda, but he 
does posit a possible proto-Munda substratum. Elst argues against too much 
dependence of Munda substratum. Arguing that there is nothing to rule out the 
case of linguistic change developing spontaneously within indigenous Indo- 
Aryan. Other cases of spontaneous linguistic change have been shown in 
other languages; what is more, borrowing or absorption of foreign words could 
have taken place after certain branches emigrated from India. Witzel, in turn, 
argues that several words commonly posited as substratum words could not 
possibly be Indo-European in origin if one follows basic rules of linguistic 
change. Fosse's concern with a basic lack of a shared paradigm for linguistic 
analysis between Indigenous Aryanists and Indo-Europeanists mirrors these 

The same kinds of issues occur in the issue of words for flora and fauna. While 
Witzel argues that flora and fauna words do not show a pattern of borrowing which 
would reflect a westward migration theory, Elst in turn argues that Indo-European 
words do no necessarily point to a Northern origin of Indo-European. As Talageri, 
Masica, and others have pointed out, because obscure etymological pedigrees 
would appear to be the norm for most plant and animal terms in proto-Indo 
European in general, etymological obscurity need not necessarily indicate a non- 
Indo-European source unless that source can be specifically demonstrated (quoted 
in Bryant 2001: 96). 

Evidence of an archaeological nature within India seems to be the most intrigu- 
ing for the building of a common set of questions in this debate. Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein paint a picture of a Harappan culture, trading with other related and 
nearby cultures, which underwent a massive shift eastward by the second millen- 
nium bce due to climactic and economic reasons. They argue for an Indo-Gangetic 
civilization which suggests more cultural continuity between Harappan and Aryan, 
yet more study has to be done for this to be proved conclusively. Because of this 
lack of evidence, Shaffer and Lichtenstein refrain from making any more definit- 
ive cultural scenarios, yet their work is frequently cited by the Indigenist Aryan 
writers (certainly Kak and Talageri in this volume) in the building of a case of 
Aryan origins. 

The question of Indo-Iranian languages and archaeology outside the sub- 
continent present us with the same forms of disagreement in this volume. Misra 
argues that Iranian language could well be less archaic, showing more continuity 
with middle Indo-Aryan. Witzel, on the other hand, argues that because there is 
an absence of local Indian words in Old Iranian, and an absence of Indian-like 
skeletons in the archaeological finds in Iran, it is impossible to posit an Out 
of India Theory in which Iranian languages developed out of an Indian proto- 

In addition to these linguistic ideas, the actual archaeological evidence outside 
of India is equally controversial. Using a variation of the basic Indo-European 



hypothesis of expansion through the central Caucasus, Parpola and Carpelan try to 
correlate the archaeological data outside of India, particularly recent archaeologi- 
cal discoveries in Central Asia and Russia by David Anthony (1995 and 1998), and 
linguistic observations about Finno-Ugaritic and its relationship to proto-Indo- 
European. Yet Lamberg-Karlovsky is quite clear that there is great danger in trying 
to make these correlations, particularly with the most likely archaeological candi- 
dates to be identified as "Indo-Iranian" culture - the Androvono and the BMAC 
cultures. Even the most likely connecting link, the BMAC culture, could have still 
sponsored several different spoken languages within its impressive fortifications 
and temples. 

More generally: for many theorists, Indo-Aryan origins is best explained by the 
hypothesis that accounts for the most facts, and that takes into account the most 
consistent patterns of linguistic and archaeological change. For others, the large 
lacunae still left by these theorists means that other narratives must be possible, 
or, a more modest claim, that another narrative cannot be ruled out. It is the bur- 
den of the alternative theory to account for the consistencies, and not just the 
inconsistencies, in the previous theory. 

How then, might this global academy begin to tell even the rudiments of a 
common story? Or, to put it another way: What might a professor of Indian culture 
whose area of expertise is not ancient India say to the eager faces of an introduc- 
tory class in light of all this complexity? One might attempt something like the fol- 
lowing: There are significant differences as well as some continuities between 
Indus Valley and Aryan civilizations and ideas. Recent archaeological evidence in 
the north west of India suggests that Harappan culture interacted with Aryan cul- 
ture, but there is still a debate as to whether this interaction came from migration 
or from indigenous changes from within. And, that with a scholarly lack of con- 
sensus on the meaning of the Harappan script, it is difficult to ascertain the nature 
of the connection between Harappan and Aryan cultures. Moreover, present 
debates about the linguistic evidence focus on the nature of the Sanskrit language, 
and whether it was a dominant language which borrowed certain elements from 
indigenous languages, or whether that scenario should be changed to reflect more 
interactive relationships or even change from within Sanskrit itself. In addition, 
those who argue for the origin of Aryan civilization within India and those who 
argue for an origin outside of India do not share the same paradigms for linguistic 
derivation. Archaeological discoveries in other, related areas, such as Iran and 
Russia, also seem to suggest a connection between these cultures. The basic 
challenge for all scholars remains in matching the linguistic evidence with the 
archaeological evidence in a way that explains most data. 

We exist in a world of global conflict without global governance; and the 
question of Aryan origins has become a global academic conflict with a dire need 
for common rules of debate. Without anticipating Edwin Bryant's excellent and 
cohesive "Concluding Remarks," I might end by observing that, even in these 
articles there are, however, emerging consensuses of a certain sort: First, very 
few, if any, archaeologists or linguists embrace the invasion theory, and have not 



done so for several decades. Second, there is a general agreement that in the pre- 
Vedic period, prolonged contact between Aryan and other cultures led to major 
changes in religious, material, and linguistic life that led to what we now call the 
Vedic culture. Third, if the status of the Indus Valley script is ever deciphered, 
theories would have to change dramatically; equally importantly, if the horse is 
ever discovered to be contemporaneous with early Indus Valley culture, or pre- 
Vedic South Asian civilization, the migrationist theories would have to change 
dramatically. In the absence of such discoveries, definitive conclusions cannot be 
based on the absence of evidence. 

Several opportunities for colloquies and conferences present themselves from 
this volume: the need for scholars to gather to evaluate Vedic astronomy, and 
claims about Vedic astronomy, in the larger context of the history of science. 
Scholars also need to gather to re-establish a set of agreed upon rules about inter- 
nal Vedic evidence, and internal Vedic chronology. Finally, scholars need to confer 
about the possibility and rules for linguistic "flip-flopping," where, in linguistic 
paleontology and studies of palatization in particular, arguments have been made 
about the reverse directionality of linguistic change. 

Barring any new discoveries, neither internal evidence from the Veda, nor archae- 
ological evidence, nor linguistic substrata alone can make the turning point in any 
given hypothesis. This situation should be the most persuasive case of all for schol- 
ars to allow the questions to unite them in interdependence, rather than suspicions to 
divide them in monistic theory-making. It is far too early for scholars to begin taking 
positions and constructing scenarios as if they were truths. Rather, it is time for 
scholars to rewrite and then share a set of common questions, such as the ones artic- 
ulated earlier. Then, a lack of conclusive evidence can be a spur for further research, 
rather than a political bludgeon which wastes precious intellectual resources. 


1 See in particular the recent exchange in "The Open Page" of The Hindu between Michael 
Witzel and David Frawley, June 18, June 25, July 9, July 16, August 6, and August 13 
(2002). Also see Witzel's "Westward Ho! The Incredible Wanderlust of the Rgvedic 
Tribes Exposed by S. Talageri, A Review of: Shrikant G. Talageri, The Rigveda. A his- 
torical analysis." in Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies (EJVS) 7(2) (2001), March 31 
(At See also responses in and 

This volume does not address the recent discovery in the Gulf of Cambay, off 
the coast of Gujarat, since there is as of yet no scholarly consensus about its date and 


Anthony, D., 1991. "The Archaeology of Indo-European Origins," Journal of Indo- 
European Studies, 19(3/4): 193-222. 

, 1995. "Horse, Wagon, and Chariot: Indo-European Languages and Archaeology," 

Antiquity, 69(264): 554-65. 



Anthony, D., 1998. "The Opening of the Eurasian Steppe at 2000 bce." In The Bronze Age 

and Iron Age Peoples of Eastern Central Asia (The Journal of Indo-European Studies 

Monograph, 26), edited by V H. Maire, Vol. 1 . Washington, DC: Institute for the Study 

of Man, pp. 94-113. 
Bobomulloev, S., 1999. "Discovery of a Bronze Age Tomb on the Upper Zerafshan," 

Stratum Plus (in Russian) No. 2:307-14. 
Bryant, E., 2001. The Quest for The Origins ofVedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration 

Debate. New York: Oxford University Press. 
Chakrabarty, D., 1997. Colonial Indology: Sociopolitics of the Ancient Indian Past. New 

Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt, Ltd. 
Harmatta, I, 1981. "Proto Iranians and Proto Indians in Central Asia in the 2nd Millennium 

bc (Linguistic Evidence)." In Ethnic Problems of the History of Central Asian in the 

Early Period, edited by M. S. Asmiov et al. Moscow: Nauka, pp. 75-82. 
, 1992. "The Emergence of the Indo-Iranians: The Indo-Iranian Languages." In 

History of Civilizations of Central Asia, edited by A. H. Dani and V M. Masson. 

UNESCO, Vol. 1, pp. 357-78. 
Hemphill, B. E., J. R. Lukaes, and K. A. R. Kennedy, 1991. "Biological Adaptations and 

Affinities of Bronze Age Harappans." In Harappa Excavations 1986-1990, edited by 

R. H. Meadow. Madison, WI: Prehistory Press, pp. 137-82. 
Hock, H. H., 1999. "Through a Glass Darkly: Modern 'Racial' Interpretations vs. Textual 

and General Pre-historical Evidence on arya and dasa/dasyu in Vedic Society." In Aryan 

and Non-Aryan in South Asia: Evidence, Interpretation, and Ideology, edited by 

J. Bronkhorst and M. Deshpande. Harvard Oriental Series, Opera Minora, Vol. 3. 

Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, pp. 145-74. 
Parpola, A., 1988. "The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the Cultural and 

Ethnic Identity of the Dasas." Studia Orientalia, 64: 195-302. 
Witzel, M., 1999a. "Aryan and Non-Aryan Names in Vedic India. Data for the Linguistic 

Situation, c. 1900-500 bc." In Aryans and Non-Aryans in South Asia, edited by 

J. Bronkhorst and M. Deshpande. Harvard Oriental Series, Opera Minora. Cambridge, 

MA: Harvard University Press. 
, 1999b. "Substrate Languages in Old Indo-Aryan," Electronic Journal of Electronic 

Studies, September 1999. 
Yash Pal, B., R. K. Snood and D. P. Agrawal, 1984. "Remote Sensing of the 'Lost' Sarasvati 

River." In Frontiers of the Indus Civilization, edited by B. B. Lai, S. P. Gupta, and Shashi 

Asthana. New Delhi: Books and Books, pp. 491-7. 







New insights on Vedic Aryan issues 
Jonathan Mark Kenoyer 

1.1 Introduction 

In the course of the early excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the 
1920s-1930s, the Indus Valley civilization came to be recognized by the world as 
the first urban culture of South Asia. In the beginning, scholars such as Sir John 
Marshall claimed that the Indus Valley civilization represented an indigenous 
culture that set the foundation for later Vedic, Buddhist, and Hindu civilization 
(Marshall 1931). Even though some scholars proposed that the "idea" of civiliza- 
tion had diffused from the West (Wheeler 1968), the achievements of this culture 
soon came to be regarded as an important validation for the antiquity of Indian civ- 
ilization as a whole. In this capacity it was occasionally used by political and reli- 
gious leaders of the subcontinent in their struggle for independence from British 
rule. Some of the artifacts used to link the Indus cities to later Indian culture were 
decorative motifs such as the swastika, pipal leaf, and endless knot mandala. Seals 
with depictions of individuals seated in yogic positions and "post cremation burial 
urns" served to confirm the Indianness of the Harappan culture. 

After the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Indus Valley 
civilization came to be viewed from several different perspectives. Scholars using 
Western historical, anthropological, or archaeological paradigms studied this 
civilization to determine its relationships to other known civilizations in West 
and East Asia. This perspective has continued to be the predominant framework for 
archaeological research in both India and Pakistan. However, many scholars in 
Pakistan have come to view the Indus cities as an example of a pre-Islamic 
civilization that had little relationship to the modern Islamic state. Since the major 
excavated Indus sites of Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and Chanhudaro were located in 
what became Pakistan, archaeological research in India after 1947 focused on the 
discovery and excavation of new sites, such as Kalibangan and Lothal. At these 



sites, the discovery of comparable artifacts, such as seals, Indus script, burials, city 
walls, and monumental architecture were interpreted as being identical to those 
found at the major sites of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. However, other features, 
such as hearths, that were at first interpreted as being domestic in nature, soon came 
to be referred to as "fire altars" and mundane artifacts such as triangular terra cotta 
cakes began to take on a new significance as ritual objects (Lai and Thapar 1967). 

Over the past several decades there have been numerous attempts to define the 
relationship of the Harappan culture and the Indus Valley civilization as a whole 
to the Vedic literature and culture. These studies often fade into broader discus- 
sions that include later Indian religious traditions that have come to be referred to 
collectively as Hinduism. This chapter will focus only on three major arguments 
regarding the Harappans and the Vedic Aryans, all of which use the same basic 
archaeological and literary data, but interpreted in different ways. One view is 
that the Harappan culture was destroyed by invading hordes of horse- and chariot- 
riding Indo- Aryan warriors (Wheeler 1968). In this view, the Indus civilization 
did not leave a significant legacy, but was replaced by new cultural and religious 
traditions as well as new populations that have continued up to the present. This 
view has been strongly contested by archaeologists (Shaffer 1984; Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein 1999) and others (Singh 1995). A second view is that the Harappans 
were themselves the communities referred to in the Vedic texts and that they were 
the ones to introduce the domestic horse and iron technology in the northern sub- 
continent, along with Early Vedic ideology (Singh 1995; Gupta 1996). Many of 
the arguments used to support this view are so tenuous that few if any scholars 
have bothered to address the issues. A third view is that the Harappan culture was 
earlier and distinct from Vedic culture, but that there is an important Harappan 
legacy in later cultures (see Kenoyer 1998 for summary). 

The archaeological identification of Vedic culture has been very difficult 
because the material culture associated with Vedic communities is either 
ephemeral and not preserved in the archaeological record or it is indistinguishable 
from that of other Late Chalcolithic cultures. Since the Early Vedic people did not 
use a system of writing, there are no written records or inscriptions. Furthermore, 
there are no known monuments, temples, or distinctive sculptures that can be 
attributed to this elusive period. Whereas scholars tend to agree that Vedic com- 
munities did leave some form of archaeological record, most claims have not with- 
stood the scrutiny of scientific research (see Gaur 1997 for a summary). Current 
candidates for Early Vedic communities are the Ochre Colored Pottery Cultures of 
the northern subcontinent (Gaur 1997) or the grey ware using cultures of northern 
Pakistan (Dani 1967, 1991). Some scholars feel that later Indo-Aryan communi- 
ties can be associated with the Painted Grey Ware Cultures (Lai 1981, 1998) which 
overlap with the Late Harappan occupation at the site of Bhagwanpura (Lai 1982, 
1998; Joshi 1993). Many other variations on these three themes can be found in 
the literature, but it is not possible to address all of them individually. 

The uncritical use of the archaeological data from excavations throughout 
northern India and Pakistan has led to serious misrepresentations about the nature 



of the Indus culture, its decline and its legitimate legacy. Much of the confusion 
is due to the paucity of well-documented excavations of the critical period at the 
end of the Indus cities, generally referred to as the Late Harappan period 
(1900-1300 or 1000 bc). An additional complication is that the Late Harappan 
period has several different regional variations that have been grouped together 
on the basis of the modern regions of Punjab, Sindh, and Gujarat (Shaffer 1992; 
Kenoyer 1995) (Figure 1.1). The period following the Late Harappan is also quite 
poorly represented in the critical areas of the Punjab, Sindh, and Gujarat. A 
review of the data from excavations in both Pakistan and India show that although 
there are numerous continuities with later periods, significant changes were also 
occurring during the latest phase of the Indus Tradition and the rise of new urban 
centers in the Indo-Gangetic Tradition (Kenoyer 1995). 

One of the most important developments is the emergence of new peripheral 
centers in the Gangetic region concomitant with the eclipse of urban centers in 
the old core of the Indus Valley. This suggests that the Late Harappan period is 
not so much a time of decline in the Indus Valley, but rather of social, economic, 
and political reorganization on a larger scale that includes both the Indus and 
Gangetic regions as well as the adjacent Malwa Plateau. 

In order to provide a more reliable perspective on the Late Harappan period of 
the Punjab region, recent excavations at Harappa have included examination of 
the uppermost levels of the site (Meadow 1991; Meadow et al. 1996; Meadow 
and Kenoyer 2001). The Late Harappan phenomenon at the site is generally 
referred to as the Cemetery H culture because it was first discovered in the course 
of excavations in a cemetery located in the portion of the site grid referred to as 
Area H (Vats 1940). This chapter presents a critical examination of the Late 
Harappan data from the earlier excavations at Harappa followed by the recent 
discoveries from new excavations conducted by the Harappa Archaeological 
Research Project in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology and 
Museums, Government of Pakistan. These new excavations indicate that the Late 
Harappan occupation at the site was much more widespread than originally 
thought (Figure 1.2). Baked brick architecture was constructed with both newly 
made bricks as well as reused bricks from earlier structures. During the Late 
Harappan period there is evidence of over-crowding and encroachment rather 
than abandonment and decline (Kenoyer 1991). 

Furthermore, people using pottery identical to that found in Cemetery H were 
living together with people who were still using Harappan styles of pottery 
(Meadow et al. 1999). Instead of technological stagnation and reversals, we see 
evidence of more highly refined techniques of firing pottery and making faience. 
The earliest evidence for glass production is seen during this time along with new 
techniques for drilling hard stone beads (Meadow et al. 1996). 

With all of these new developments, it is also important to note the relatively 
sudden disappearance of cubical stone weights, the Indus script, and Indus seals 
with script and animal motifs (Kenoyer 1998). The unicorn motif and other dis- 
tinctive symbols of the Indus elites are no longer produced. New types of pottery 


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vessels and the disappearance of traditional Harappan forms indicate changes in 
food preparation. While there is no evidence for a new set of food crops, the 
increasing importance of rice and millets indicates a significant change or inten- 
sification of the subsistence economy (Weber 1992, 1998; Meadow 1996, 1998). 
The economic and ritual importance of new animals such as the horse and camel 
are still not fully understood (Meadow 1998), though they were present by the end 
of the Late Harappan period and beginning of the Painted Grey Ware Period. 
Finally, the changes in burial practices attest to a major shift in ideology, but it is 
important to note that there is no concrete evidence for the appearance of a new 
biological population (Hemphill et al. 1991; Kennedy 1992, 1995). This suggests 
that the changes and discontinuities reflect a transformation of the local popula- 
tion rather than the appearance of new people and the eradication of the Harappan 

Given the new information it is necessary to reevaluate not only the relationship 
between the Harappan and the Late Harappan periods, but also the relationship of 
the Late Harappan to the archaeological cultures of the Early Historic period. 
Furthermore, archaeologists, linguists, and historians of religion who have been 
trying to understand the origin of Vedic Aryan communities and their relationship 
to the Indus civilization must also take into account this new information. It is 
not possible in this chapter to critically evaluate these earlier interpretations 
(e.g. Godbole 1961; Sharma 1978, 1999; Wheeler 1979; Erdosy 1989; Bajpai 1992; 
Deshpande 1995; Lai 1998; Bryant 1999; Kochhar 2000), even though some of 
them still have some validity. Instead, it is more constructive to begin with a fresh 
new perspective on the socio-economic, technological, and symbolic/ritual trans- 
formations going on at the site. When these data can be correlated to information 
from other sites, it will be possible to finally shed new light on the time period 
between the end of the Indus cities and the rise of Early Historic cities in the 
northern subcontinent. 

1.2 Chronological framework 

In the past there was considerable disagreement over the dating of the Indus Valley 
civilization and the period leading up to the rise of the Early Historic cities. 
However, the large number of radiocarbon dates from careful excavations during 
the past 50 years now make it possible to date the major chronological periods quite 
reliably (Table 1.1). The major qualification to the chronology presented is that the 
decline of the Indus civilization occurred at different times depending on the spe- 
cific region. Some settlements, such as Harappa, may never have been totally aban- 
doned, while other sites such as Mohenjo-daro and Jhukar were abandoned for 
centuries and then re-inhabited for short periods in later historical periods. In the 
Punjab, the dates for the Late Harappan are generally 1900-1300 bc, but in some 
sites the dates go as late as 1000 bc (Shaffer 1992). In the region of Sindh the Late 
Harappan is generally referred to as the Jhukar culture, but there are no radiocar- 
bon dates from the late levels of sites with Jhukar pottery and artifacts. According 



Table 1,1 Chronology of the Indus and Indo-Gangetic Traditions 

Archaeological/historical events 

General dates 

Indus Tradition 

Early Food Producing Era 

Regionalization Era 

Harappa Period 1A/B 

Harappa Period 2 
Integration Era 

Harappa Period 3A 

Harappa Period 3B 

Harappa Period 3C 
Localization Era 

Late Harappan - Harappa Period 4 
Late Harappan - Harappa Period 5 
Post-Indus Painted Grey Ware 
Mahabharata Battle 

Indo-Gangetic Tradition: beginning of 
Regionalization Era for Indo-Gangetic Tradition 
Early Historic Period begins around 
Northern Black Polished Ware 

Ramayana Episode {early NBP period) 

Panini (Sanskrit grammarian) 

Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) 

Mauryan Empire (Integration Era) 

Chandragupta Maurya 



c.6500-5000 bc 
c. 5000-2600 bc 
3300-2800 bc 
2800-2600 bc 
2600-1900 bc 
2600-2450 bc 
2450-2200 bc 
2200-1900 bc 
1900-1300 (or 1000) bc 
1900-1800 bc 
1800-1700 bc 
+ 1200-800 bc 
c.836 bc 

600 bc 

(?700) 500-300 bc 

c. 500-400 bc 

563-483 bc (or 440-360 bc) 

7317-298 bc 
298-274 bc 

274-232 bc 

to Mughal, " ' Jhukar' is only a pottery style emerging in association with the con- 
tinuing Mature Harappan ceramic tradition without any break or sudden change 
in cultural continuity" (Mughal 1990: 3). Another Late or post-Harappan culture 
from this region is seen at the site of Pirak which can be dated from 1700-700 bc 
(Jarrige and Santoni 1979) or 2000-1300 bc (Shaffer 1992). In Gujarat, the Late 
Harappan period is characterized by a pottery referred to as Lustrous Red Ware 
(LRW), which is found in levels associated with the Harappan pottery and con- 
tinues until around 1400 bc (Bhan 1992). The LRW pottery is also often found in 
association with a style of pottery referred to as Black and Red ware which has 
strong cultural affinities to peninsular sites. Furthermore, the discovery of LRW 
at the sites of Navdatoli (Phase III) and Ahar (Phase IC) provides additional 
support for interaction with the east rather than with the west (Bhan 1992). After 
1400 bc there is a break in the archaeological record at most sites between 1400 
and 600 bc when another diagnostic style of pottery appears. This is the famous 
Northern Black Polished Ware that is associated with the Early Historic period. 
At present there are no sites in the Punjab, Sindh, or Gujarat that provide a con- 
vincing link between the Late Harappan and Early Historic periods. However, it 



is not unlikely that they will be discovered, since all of these regions played an 
important role in the initial phases of the Early Historic period. 

1.3 The Late Harappan period 

The Late Harappan period at the site of Harappa was first identified in the 
excavations of Cemetery H that was discovered by K. N. Sastri in 1928 (Sastri 1965) 
and excavated by M. S. Vats from 1928 to 1934 (Vats 1940: 203ff.) (Figure 1 .2). The 
collection of burial pottery from the upper levels of the cemetery, referred to as 
Stratum I (Figure 1.3), were stylistically different from the pottery associated 
with the Harappan occupation at the site (Figure 1 .4). Fractional secondary buri- 
als of one or more adult individuals were found in some of the pots, and it was 
suggested that the bodies had been exposed for some time before the bones were 
collected and buried in the funerary vessels (Sastri 1965) (Figure 1.5). Some 
of the vessels contained the entire body of infants buried in embryonic position, 
presumably wrapped with cloth (Sastri 1965: 6). 

In all but one example, the bones found in the pot burials appear to have been 
exposed without any evidence of burning. One partly eroded pot contained "ashy 
earth freely mixed with pieces of charcoal, some blackened potsherds, and 
numerous fragments of charred and un-charred bones, including one charred 
bone of a bird" (Vats 1940: 219). Although many scholars have used this evidence 
to speak of cremation being practiced by the people of the Cemetery H period 
(Sankalia 1979), the contents of this pot appear to conform to the type of 
Harappan trash matrix in which the pot burials were being buried. One other 
vessel was found with some charred fragmentary bone, but none of the charred 
bone has been identified as being human (Vats 1940: appendix I). 

In addition to the burials in Cemetery H, Vats reports the discovery of post- 
cremation burial urns that were never found with burned human bones. 
Nonetheless, these urns were identified as post-cremation urns because large urns 
with partly burned human bones had been found at a site in Baluchistan and 
because similar ones from Mohenjo-daro had been identified as such by Sir John 
Marshall (Vats 1 940: 25 1-3 ). All of the ones pictured in the Harappa report appear 
to be trash bins or sump pots that may have collected differing amounts of animal 
bone and in one case an un-burned human tibia (Vats 1940: 252). Recent excava- 
tions at Harappa using modern techniques of recording and analysis confirm that 
the so-called "post-cremation burial urns" are in fact secondary accumulations of 
bone resulting from periodic discard. It is clear from a critical reading of the exca- 
vation report and recent work at Harappa that there is no evidence for cremation 
during either the Harappan or the Late Harappan period at Harappa. 

After removal of the upper layer of burial vessels additional graves were 
discovered at a lower level, designated Stratum II and commonly referred to as 
"earth burials" (Figure 1.6). These burials were different from the fractional pot 
burials and consisted of complete skeletons buried on their side with flexed or 
extended legs and generally oriented northeast to southwest. The orientations 




e'sif^syZ/r. ■ ^.sr ^-**l ' '*." -'■ J - 

• » 

Figure 1.3 Cemetery H: Stratum I burials. Group No. H206a-k from east. 

Source: Punjab Volume 44, pi. 4563, 1929-30. Photo: Courtesy of Archaeological Survey of India. 


Figure 1.4 Detail of contents in burial jar H245a. 

Source: Punjab Volume 44, pi. 4567, 1929-30. Photo: Courtesy of Archaeological Survey of India. 

were not uniform however, and some skeletons were oriented with head to the 
east, and one had the head to the west. Most of these burials were accompanied 
by burial pottery and occasionally ornaments (Vats 1940; Sastri 1965). The burial 
pottery found with the Stratum II burials (Figure 1.7) is stylistically different 



Figure 1.5 Cemetery H: Stratum I burial pottery. 

Source: Punjab Volume 44, pi. 4573, 1929-30. Jars no. H206a,b and H245b. Photo: Courtesy of 
Archaeological Survey of India. 

Figure 1.6 Cemetery H: Stratum II burial no. H306. 

Source: Punjab Volume 44, pi. 4566, 1929-30. Photo: Courtesy of Archaeological Survey of India. 

from that found with the Stratum I burials and is also distinct from the Harappan 
pottery found in the Harappan Cemetery R37 and in the occupation areas of 
the site. Some of these vessels, particularly the ones with tall everted rims 
(Figure 1.7) are stylistically similar to vessels from sites in Baluchistan and 
Afghanistan. However, the ware and manufacturing conforms to the rest of the 
pottery in the assemblage, and together the ceramics represent a local industry. 

Although the pottery from both Stratum I and II do not reveal any direct 
parallels with Harappan pottery, there does appear to be a stylistic evolution 
beginning with the Harappan pottery and continuing through both Stratum II and 
Stratum I. Furthermore, the same general area of the site continued in use as 
a cemetery from the Harappan (2600 bc) through the Late Harappan period 



r 3T!4r"^[.HJl Ufa l 0l~ilKJlU 1 H21UflL.»fll <4] Ifll 'fll "71 JM 'W 'lmirna'll Bl 'H *4i "& '01 '71 'a 4 £W 'IWUMPWIJ Sl.SH ^ '^ 

Figure 1. 7 Pottery from Stratum II burials. 

Source: Punjab Volume 44, pi. 4671, 1929-30. Photo: Courtesy of Archaeological Survey of India. 

(1700 bc or later). Almost 1,000 years of continuous use suggests that there were 
some important continuities in concepts of sacred burial areas and afterlife. 

According to Hemphill et al. (1991) the main biological discontinuities are 
between 6000 and 4500 bc and then again around 800 bc 

With closest biological affinities outside the Indus Valley to the inhabitants 
of Tepe Hissar 3 (3000-2000 bc), these biological data can be interpreted 
to suggest that peoples to the west interacted with those in the Indus 
Valley during this and the preceding proto-Elamite period and thus may 
have influenced the development of the Harappan civilization. 

The second biological discontinuity exists between the inhabitants of 
Harappa, Chalcolithic Mehrgarh, and post-Harappa Timarghara on one 
hand and the Early Iron Age inhabitants of Sarai Khola on the other. 

(Hemphill et al. 1991: 174) 
They go on to state emphatically that 

The Harappan Civilization does indeed represent an indigenous develop- 
ment within the Indus Valley, but this does not indicate isolation extending 
back to Neolithic times. Rather, this development represents internal con- 
tinuity for only 2000 years, combined with interactions with the West and 
specifically with the Iranian Plateau. 


It is important to note that these biological discontinuities are based on a very 
limited data set and do not indicate massive movements of populations. It is not 
certain what the cause of these changes is, but they could result from gene flow 
during the annual movements of traders traveling between the Iranian Plateau and 
the Indus settlements. Trade interactions can be documented from the earliest 
Neolithic period (+7000 bc) and continued through the Harappan period 
(2600-1900 bc). There is some question as to the degree of trade between the 



northern Indus sites such as Harappa and the highlands to the west during the 
Late Harappan period. 

When looked at in the larger context of the Indus Valley, all of the burials from 
Indus Valley sites bear strong affinities, except for the late burials at Mohenjo-daro 
(Hemphill et al. 1 99 1 : 1 73). On a smaller scale, studies comparing the cranial meas- 
urements of only burials at Harappa itself indicate that the burials of the Harappan 
period have the closest biological affinity with those of the Late Harappan Stratum 
II burials. There is no close relationship between the Late Harappan Stratum II and 
Stratum I burials. The significance of these similarities or dissimilarities should not 
be taken too seriously since the biological anthropologists themselves caution that 
this is only a tentative suggestion due to the small sample size of the Late Harappan 
burials. Generally speaking, the biological evidence does not support any hypothe- 
sis involving the movements of new populations into Harappa from outside the 
Indus Valley during the Harappan or Late Harappan periods. While there is some 
suggestion that the individuals buried in the Harappan cemetery are more closely 
linked to those of the Late Harappan Stratum II earth burials than to the Stratum I pot 
burials, the sample is too small to make any conclusive statements. Therefore, it is 
necessary to look to the archaeological evidence from the habitation areas until a 
larger sample of burials can be recovered and studied. Excavations of Late 
Harappan houses in the various areas of the site were undertaken by the Harappa 
Project to look for new types of evidence to understand additional cultural features 
of the people who were buried in Cemetery H. 

1.3.1 Cemetery H occupation extent 

During the initial surface surveys of Harappa begun in 1986 and 1987, pottery of 
the Late Harappan (Cemetery H) occupation was recovered primarily from 
Mounds AB and E, with a higher proportion found on the deflated and barren sur- 
faces of Mound AB (Figure 1.2). However, by 1999, evidence for Cemetery H 
occupation had been recovered from all of the major mounds. In addition, exca- 
vations by the Department of Archaeology and Museums along the western edge 
of Harappa town discovered the presence of Cemetery H occupation levels and 
substantial architectural units made with fired brick (unpublished). It is not 
unlikely that additional Late Harappan structures exist beneath Harappa City 
itself. These discoveries indicate that the Cemetery H occupation was much more 
widespread than previously thought. Although the total area of the Cemetery H 
occupation is difficult to estimate due to the massive scale of brick robbing and 
the lack of detailed excavations in Harappa City, the total habitation area is prob- 
ably as much as 100 hectares, only slightly less than that of the Harappan period. 

1.3.2 Cemetery H architecture 

Excavations in various trenches between 1987 and 2000 have convincingly 
demonstrated that the Late Harappans were constructing their houses in much the 



same pattern as during the Harappan period. They made large mud brick 
platforms as foundations for brick buildings that were serviced by brick-lined 
drains. The orientation of the houses was based on the cardinal directions and, 
except for encroachments, the streets remained along the same plans as during the 
preceding Harappan period. 

In 1987, excavations on the top northwestern corner of Mound E, mud brick 
platforms associated with Cemetery H styles of pottery were found overlying 
Harappan occupation deposits (Dales and Kenoyer 1991: 221). In excavations 
along the top edge of the mound a drain made of fired bricks was discovered asso- 
ciated with Late Harappan (Cemetery H) pottery (Dales and Kenoyer 1989). The 
brick sizes were slightly smaller than those of the Harappan period, but they had 
the same general proportion of 1 : 2 : 4 (i.e. thickness : width : length). 

The initial investigation of Late Harappan occupation on Mound AB was 
undertaken in a large step trench in the center of the mound in 1988 and 1989. 
Structures made of mud brick were identified along the uppermost edges of the 
trench, but further excavations indicated that these fragmentary structures had 
been badly disturbed by brick robbing. Even though no complete structures were 
identified, it was possible to determine that the mud bricks did not conform to the 
standard Harappan sizes (Dales and Kenoyer 1991: 235). Further excavations in 
this area did not reveal any significant occupation deposits. 

Continued excavations down the northwestern edge of Mound E in 1988 
provided new information on the overall chronology of the settlement, beginning 
with the Early Harappan period through the Harappan and Late Harappan occupa- 
tions (Dales and Kenoyer 1991). When combined with the results from excavations 
on Mound AB, it was possible to establish an internal chronology for the site 
(Table 1.1), beginning with Periods 1 and 2 - Early Harappan, Period 3 - Harappan, 
and Periods 4 and 5 - Late Harappan (Kenoyer 1991). 

Period 4 was a transitional phase following the final phase of the Harappan 
period and was characterized by the presence of brick drains, fragmentary brick 
walls, and mud brick structures. Due to the lack of extensive habitation contexts 
it was difficult to determine the precise nature of the ceramic assemblage, but it 
appeared to include a mixture of Cemetery H and Harappan forms, particularly 
the pointed base goblet. 

Period 5 was the Late Harappan occupation with pottery related to the 
Cemetery H, pot burials of Stratum I. Initially, no architectural features were 
found associated with these types of pottery, but in 1986, one area with in situ 
pottery, hearths, and some fragmentary brick architecture was discovered west of 
the tomb of Baba Noor Shah Wali on Mound AB (Figure 1.2). These features 
were found at the top of a circular plinth of the original mound, left standing in 
the middle of the extensive excavations made by Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni 
between 1920 and 1925 (Vats 1940: 136). Every year the eroding vessels and 
hearths of this feature were carefully observed, and in 1994 samples of ash and 
sediment from inside the lower portion of a large storage vessel were collected for 
botanical analysis. Finally, in 1996, it was necessary to excavate the area because 



of excessive erosion and disturbance by local children looking for "treasures." 
Designated Trench 38, this area actually did reveal numerous treasures in the 
form of architecture, pottery, beads, and hearths that made it possible to obtain a 
good date for the elusive Late Harappan period. The initial studies of the pottery 
and artifacts from this and other contexts at Harappa are providing a new 
understanding of the material culture of the Late Harappan phase, which up to 
now has been known primarily from cemetery contexts and surface collections. A 
detailed study of this area is under preparation by Manabu Koiso who supervised 
the excavations, but a summary of the major points is provided next. 

1.3.3 Cemetery H domestic space 

Although the area of excavation in Trench 38 was very limited, only about 5 by 
5 meters, it proved to be extremely rich in a wide variety of domestic artifacts 
and architectural features. Directly below the surface a baked brick wall [13] was 
encountered that was oriented east-west, with connecting walls at either end ori- 
ented north-south (Figure 1.8a). These walls were made of generally complete 
fired bricks that were slightly smaller than those normally used during the 
Harappan period, but as with the drain found on Mound E, the proportions of the 
bricks were 1:2:4. On the floor associated with this wall was a large oval hearth 
[43] that has been dated to c. 1701-37 calBC (Meadow et al. 1996). The pottery 
directly associated with this hearth and floor were almost exclusively attributable 
to the Cemetery H period, except for a few plain storage vessels that are also 
found in the preceding Harappan period. It is important to note that pointed base 
goblets were found in these latest levels along with Cemetery H pottery. Other 
finds include steatite beads, carnelian beads, terra cotta bangles, and some terra 
cotta figurine fragments. 

Beneath the floor level associated with brick wall [13] were a series of habita- 
tion surfaces with in situ hearths and ceramic vessels characteristic of the Late 
Harappan phase. The hearths were basically a shallow depression on the floor, 
filled with charcoal and ash with underlying red burned soil. Large undecorated 
globular storage jars were set into the floor and eventually became filled with 
trash that included terra cotta nodules and terra cotta cake fragments. These large 
storage jars were almost identical to those used during the Harappan period. 
Other plain wares include shallow dishes, deep bowls, and small jars, including 
the pointed base goblet. 

A large globular pot with a lid made from an overturned ceramic bottle was 
found under the corner of the later wall. This vessel may have been used for stor- 
ing or heating water, but it was then reused as a refuse pit set into the floor near 
a cooking area. The upper fill inside this vessel was the result of later sediments 
washing into the empty pot, but in the bottom was an ashy layer that had a bone 
tool, possibly used in weaving or basketry. Several small bowls with red slip and 
black bands were found on or near the floor levels. In addition a small round- 
bottomed pot was discovered on the floor (Figure 1 .8b). Careful excavation of the 



(a) Period 5 levels 


^--1 +N1564 




° J -+N1563 

+ 4 N 1562 

(b) Period 4/5 section view 
E 1912.06 


wall 13 ' 


bead pot t'( P ot j ^ ^ 

Looking North 1 meter ," ~TT ,. 

M ■ ' Looking East 

1 Z- 7 - 

eroded slope 

Period 4/5 plan view 
N 1565 



N1562-T- ^ 

E1911 '*' 


1 meter 

Figure 1.8 (a) Harappa 1996: Trench 38, wall 13 and hearth 43. (b) Harappa 1996: trench 38, 
house floor with bead pot. 

fill of this vessel revealed a collection of 133 beads, amulets, and copper frag- 
ments (Figure 1.9). This assemblage includes beads that were derived from the 
earliest occupations at the site (Ravi Phase, 3300 bc) as well as some beads from 
the Harappan period (2600-1900 bc). The rest of the beads were made during 
the Late Harappan period (1900-1700 bc) and reflect the development of new 
materials and manufacturing techniques. 



Figure 1.9 Harappa 1996: bead pot with beads. 

Even today, children make similar collections of beads from the modern town 
of Harappa as they scamper across the mounds after a heavy rainfall. It is not 
unlikely that a child of the Late Harappan period collected these beads and put 
them in a pot, only to forget about them as the years passed. Eventually the house 
was remodeled and the scattered pottery was covered with fill and eventually 
a later building. There is no sign of any conflagration or destruction in this or any 
of the occupation layers of the Late Harappan period at Harappa. 

Along with the in situ pottery, the floors contained a fragment of a wavy stone 
ring generally interpreted as a ritual object during the Harappan period. A typical 
Harappan female figurine made of terra cotta was also found on the same floor. 
The presence of these types of artifacts could indicate continuity in some 
Harappan ritual traditions or, as was the case of the bead pot, that later inhabitants 
occasionally collected curious objects from the earlier times. 

A similar explanation can be made for the fragment of a badly eroded faience 
molded tablet that was found in the lowest excavated levels, which correspond to 
the interface between Periods 3C and 4/5. There are no inscribed seals from the 
Late Harappan levels (Period 5 levels) and only a few examples of pottery with 
possible script or graffiti (Meadow et al. 1996). Some scholars have argued that 



the Indus script did not disappear totally with the end of the Harappan period 
(Lai 1962, 1998; Possehl 1996), but the types of evidence presented are not very 
convincing. There is no clear evidence from Harappa that inscribed seals or pottery 
with Indus script were produced after c.1900 bc. 

1.4 Trade and technology through bead analysis 

Information derived from the beads in the bead pot found in 1996 include aspects 
of technological innovation, changing trade networks, and socio-economic hier- 
archies during the Late Harappan period. It is not possible to go into great 
detail in this chapter, but some of the basic findings and interpretations will be 
summarized next. 

The Late Harappan beads include a variety of faience beads made in unique 
shapes and with different coloring than during the Harappan period. The azure blue 
faience beads were mistaken for lapis until they were carefully examined under 
the microscope. This suggests that they may have been intended to replicate this 
blue stone, possibly because it was difficult to obtain, or to create a new form of 
blue material that did not dull easily as happens with natural lapis. Blue green 
faience had been made since the Early Harappan times, but some of the blue green 
faience of the Late Harappan period are extremely compact and glassy, almost to 
the point of being primarily made up of vitreous silica. These beads may have been 
made to replicate turquoise, a stone that can turn a dull green if worn against sweaty 
skin in the hot summers of the Punjab. The glassy faience would have remained a 
flashy blue green and was much more durable than the natural turquoise. 

One of the most important beads in this pot is a red-orange colored glass bead 
that was mistaken for carnelian until it was more carefully examined. Since 
carnelian does not discolor or become dull, it is possible that this glass replica 
was made to create a new form of material because the carnelian was difficult to 
obtain and also difficult to drill and polish. 

Once glass became more common during the Early Historic period, stone beads 
became less common and were rapidly replaced by glass beads. Regardless of the 
motives behind the production of this glass bead it is the earliest evidence for 
glass in the subcontinent. There is also evidence of glass bangles and beads from 
the site of Bhagwanpura (Sub-period IB), which represents a period of overlap 
between the final phases of the Late Harappan and the Painted Grey Ware Period 
dating from 1400 to 1000 bc (Joshi 1993: 219; Lai 1998: 444). The increasing 
evidence for the use of glass for beads and bangles during the Painted Grey Ware 
(Roy 1983) and later Northern Black Polished Ware (Gaur 1983; Roy 1986) peri- 
ods provides an important link between the glass of the Late Harappan period and 
the subsequent Early Historic period. Between 1700 and 800 bc, glass production 
developed into a common industry and became quite widespread throughout the 
northern subcontinent. It is important to note that although there is no mention of 
glass in the Rg Veda, it was known to later Vedic communities and is referred to in 
the Satapatha Brahmana (Lai 1998: 444). 



In Mesopotamia the earliest manufacture of glass beads and glassy inlays can 
be dated to around 2500-2200 bc, but glass was not commonly produced until 
around 1600 bc. In Egypt the date for intentionally produced glass ornaments is 
closer to 1500 bc (Moorey 1994: 190ff). The dating of glass in the Indus Valley 
and northern India, between 1900 and 1700 bc suggests that this industry was 
becoming common in all three regions at about the same time. Whereas there is 
evidence for considerable interaction between Mesopotamia and Egypt during 
this time, there is no concrete evidence for trade between the Indus and either 
Mesopotamia or Egypt. No analysis of the recently discovered Late Harappan 
glass has been undertaken, but the styles of beads and the presence of a highly 
developed faience industry suggests that the Indus glass technology was an 
indigenous development. 

The stone beads found in the pot tell a different story. During the Harappan 
period, stone beads were being drilled with a hard stone called Ernestite. It is 
important to note that none of the Late Harappan-style stone beads appear to have 
been drilled with this type of drill. This could mean that the source of the rare 
Ernestite drill material was no longer available or that new bead makers without 
the knowledge of this technique had taken over the bead industry at the site. The 
Late Harappan beads are drilled with fine abrasives and a tiny copper tube. This 
is a unique technique that was clearly not as effective as the stone drills, but was 
apparently the only technique available. One unfinished carnelian bead was found 
in the pot indicating that the tubular drilling was actually being done at Harappa. 

Other types of stone beads were made with a new variety of banded black and 
white agates that was not commonly used during the Harappan period. It is not 
clear where this agate comes from, but beads of this material are quite abundant 
in Late Harappan to Early Historic sites of the Gangetic region and even in 
Kashmir (e.g. Burzahom late levels) (Pande 2000). This suggests that the source 
may be in the central Deccan Plateau or the Vindhya Mountains. If this can be 
determined then the presence of these beads at Harappa would indicate an expan- 
sion of trade networks to the east. This change in trade focus could also explain 
the lack of lapis lazuli which would have come from Baluchistan and the absence 
of the Ernestite drill materials, which came either from Baluchistan or Gujarat. 
During Harappan times, carnelian is thought to have been obtained primarily 
from Gujarat though some small carnelian nodules may have been obtained from 
Baluchistan and Afghanistan. The production of carnelian colored glass beads 
could indicate a shortage of this natural raw material. 

Another important material that came from the coastal areas to the south and 
southeast was marine shell that was used to make bangles, beads, and ritual objects 
such as ladles and libation vessels. During the Late Harappan period in the north- 
ern regions marine shell ornaments are conspicuously absent (Kenoyer 1983). It is 
possible that the long-distance trade networks that brought carnelian and marine 
shell to Harappa from the south were disrupted because of changing river patterns 
and other socio-economic changes in the intervening sites. A similar breakdown in 
trade from the northwest may have resulted in the scarcity of lapis lazuli. 



The need for new types of beads and new materials such as lapis-colored 
faience, carnelian-colored glass, and a wide variety of new shapes indicate that 
ornaments continued to be used as important symbols of status and wealth in the 
context of the Late Harappan period. Stone beads made from exotic colored rocks, 
such as variegated jaspers and banded agates, were also being produced during this 
period, adding to the variety of ornaments available to the diverse urban popula- 
tion. The lack of ornaments in the Cemetery H, Stratum I and II burials makes it 
difficult to assign specific types of beads to different communities or classes. 
However, based on general assumptions about categories of wealth (Kenoyer 
2000), there is little doubt that new and rare materials would have been in demand 
by elite communities. In contrast, the common people may have continued to wear 
ornaments of terra cotta or other more easily produced materials such as steatite. 

1.5 Pottery production 

Pottery is one of the most important sources of information for dating an 
occupation level or site. During the Late Harappan period new features of deco- 
ration, form and manufacture provide strong evidence for changes in the ceramic 
corpus, but there are equally strong indications of continuities in the use of some 
earlier pottery forms and manufacturing techniques. Therefore it is necessary to 
develop a method for characterizing the pottery that provides a relatively objec- 
tive perspective on what comprises the Late Harappan pottery assemblage. At the 
urban site of Harappa, this is done by careful analysis of the pottery fragments 
from each stratigraphic excavation unit using a comprehensive methodology that 
begins with the gross characterization of sherds and ends with a detailed record- 
ing of the form, surface treatment, manufacturing, and absolute measurements. It 
is not possible to discuss this procedure in detail here, but the initial results of the 
pottery analysis from Trench 38 on Mound AB reveal the gradual increase in 
Cemetery H pottery styles and the disappearance of specific types of Harappan 
pottery, spanning Periods 4 and 5. 

In 1998 and 1 999, excavations in Trench 43 on Mound F (Figure 1.10) revealed 
additional evidence for the concurrent use of both Harappan and Late Harappan 
pottery (i.e. Period 4), and also a kiln (Figure 1.11) in which Late Harappan 
pottery (Periods 4 and 5) had been fired (Meadow et al. 1998, 1999; Meadow and 
Kenoyer 2001). 

Just inside the city wall of Mound F were found traces of fallen brick walls of 
buildings that had been abandoned at the end of Harappan Period 3C or during 
the Late Harappan Periods 4 and 5. The walls and floor levels had been disturbed 
by tunneling of brick robbers, but it was possible to confirm that these structures 
were oriented in the cardinal directions and many were associated with brick 
drains, cooking areas, and well-defined activity areas. 

Initially, the presence of pointed base goblets scattered in the fallen rubble 
was taken as an indication that these buildings were used during the final occu- 
pation of Harappan Period 3C. A few sherds of Cemetery H pottery found 








Figure 1.10 Harappa 1998-99: Trench 43, houses with fallen walls and pottery. 

mixed in with the fallen rubble of the walls were thought to be the result of later 
mixing. However, further excavations revealed numerous complete vessels 
(Figure 1.12) crushed by the walls that were similar to Late Harappan Period 4 
pottery from Cemetery H and Mound AB. In addition, a distinctive Cemetery H 
style (Period 5) globular cooking pot was found crushed by the fallen walls, and 
this vessel was stratigraphically associated with pointed base goblets and other 
Harappan-style pottery. 


Plan View j 

red burned clay 

and mud brick wall 

of kiln 

Section Views 

looking west 

looking north 

laminated silty wash 1 
vault ~ — — -i^^^arrel vault, 

vitrified kiln wall 

red burned clay— ^ 

charcoal layer 

Figure 1.11 Harappa 1999: Cemetery H kiln. 

Figure 1.12 Harappa 1998-99: Period 4 pottery. 


The extremely thin body wall of this globular shaped vessel was made with the 
paddle and anvil technique in a manner totally unlike anything the Harappan 
potters would have done. The exterior below the shoulder was coated with a thick 
layer of sandy applique that had been pressed with the fingertips to create a hon- 
eycomb design. After firing, this rough, sandy honeycomb surface was coated 
with straw tempered sandy clay slurry. The lower exterior surfaces of the vessel 
were blackened from cooking fires, but it is not certain what form of food or 
beverage was being prepared. The discovery of this new form of cooking pot 
indicates not only the introduction of a new manufacturing technique (paddle and 
anvil), but also possibly a new method of food preparation. Many other fragments 
of Cemetery H pottery were found in the fallen rubble associated with this 
cooking pot, and one fragment of this type of cooking pot was found inside a 
large kiln just to the east. 

1.6 Late Harappan (Cemetery H) Phase kiln 

Excavations by Vats in this area of Mound F in the 1920s and 1930s resulted in 
the discovery of many pottery-firing kilns that were found scattered between 
houses (Vats 1940: 472ff). In the course of excavations in Trench 43, it was not 
surprising therefore to find a large kiln just below the surface of the mound 
(Meadow et al. 1998). After excavation it became clear that this was a new form 
of kiln and the associated pottery confirms that it belongs to the Late Harappa 
Phase (Period 4 or 5). Although it had the general "pear-shaped" plan of 
Harappan kilns, the structure shows a clear discontinuity with the traditional form 
of Harappan pottery kilns. In this new form, a barrel vault made from curved 
slabs of fired clay (Figure 1.11) supported the floor of the firing chamber, while 
Harappan kilns were constructed with a central column to support the floor. Eight 
flues perforated the floor to allow fire from the lower firebox to circulate around 
the pottery, and there was probably a tall chimney to help create a strong draft. 
Recent experimental studies suggest that this innovative construction was more 
fuel-efficient than Harappan kilns and may have reached higher temperatures as 
indicated by the semi-vitrified surface of the kiln floor. The need for more effi- 
cient kilns could indicate a decline in the availability of good fuel near the city, 
but a more likely explanation would be increased demand, not only from the 
urban population, but also from regional consumers. Although this is the first 
example of a barrel vaulted updraft kiln in South Asia, it is possible that other 
examples will be found at the Late Harappan industrial sites reported by Mughal 
in Cholistan (Mughal 1997). This same type of kiln continues to be used in many 
regions of the northwestern subcontinent even today (Rye and Evans 1976; 
Saraswati 1978). 

Other aspects of Late Harappan technology and craft traditions remain to be 
investigated, but even these few examples indicate a vigorous urban economy that 
continued to support innovation and large-scale production. 



1.7 Summary and conclusion 

Although studies of the Late Harappan occupations at Harappa are not yet 
complete, this brief overview suggests that earlier models of the Late Harappan 
period need to be substantially revised. Important continuities are seen in basic 
features of architectural traditions as well as many other technologies, such as 
faience production and certain aspects of pottery making. On the other hand, dis- 
continuities in the use of seals, weights, and writing provide evidence for signif- 
icant changes in key technological and cultural features that were associated with 
the earlier Harappan period. The breakdown of long-distance trade networks in 
the northern regions are revealed by the absence or decline in shell working. The 
establishment of new trade networks are suggested by the appearance of new raw 
materials, such as banded black and white agate, for the manufacture of orna- 
ments. The introduction of new technologies, such as paddle and anvil techniques 
of pottery making and new types of kilns suggest a major reorganization of crafts 
needed to supply the basic domestic needs of urban communities. Furthermore, 
innovations in faience and glass making, and new bead drilling techniques, sug- 
gest a creative environment stimulated by demand for high-status items by new 
groups of elites in a diverse urban population. 

There are still important unanswered questions regarding Late Harappan sub- 
sistence systems (Meadow 1996; Weber 1998), but one thing for certain is that 
there is no evidence for the use of the horse by the occupants of either the 
Harappan or the Late Harappan cities and towns (Meadow and Patel 1997). The 
horse and camel were clearly known in the foot hills of Baluchistan since they are 
represented in terra cotta figurines at the site of Pirak (Jarrige and Santoni 1979) 
and date to c. 1700-700 bc. 

The role of rice and millets during the Harappan period is still not well under- 
stood, but it did become more common in the Late Harappan and subsequent 
Painted Grey Ware Period (Gaur 1983). Earlier reports have argued for the use of 
rice during the Harappan period (Vishnu-Mittre and Savithri 1982) and even 
though recent excavations at Harappa have recovered evidence for rice from the 
Harappan and Late Harappan levels, it was clearly not an important subsistence 
grain (Weber 2000, pers. comm.). Three varieties of millet have also been found 
from the Harappan and Late Harappan levels at Harappa, but it is still not clear if 
they reflect a major change in the subsistence economy or simply a change in 
processing or discard (Weber 2000, pers. comm.). These same varieties of millet 
are also found in the Late Harappan period at sites such as Rojdi in Gujarat (Weber 
1992, 1998). A variety of millets and pulses are also common in the Orange 
Colored Pottery sites such as Atranjikhera (Gaur 1983). Although the new discov- 
eries indicate that there are changes occurring in subsistence practices as well as 
in the utilization of new animals for transport or traction, these changes are not 
abrupt, and therefore may have affected only a small proportion of the population. 

Finally, the biological evidence from Harappa does not indicate a significant 
change in population. However, there are significant changes in burial practices 



and new decorative motifs on pottery, indicating that some of these urban 
communities had developed new ideologies that were inconsistent with the 
religious practices of the earlier Harappan elites. 

I would interpret the various developments summarized earlier as reflecting 
social, economic, and ideological restructuring that involved previously marginal 
or minority communities. On the basis of Late Harappan pottery associated with 
Harappan pottery at the site of Harappa, this process appears to have begun 
during the final phases of the Harappan period and continued through the Late 
Harappan period. The origin of these communities is unknown, but it is not 
unlikely that one or more of them may represent communities referred to in the 
early Vedic literature. Whether these communities can be considered "arya" or 
"non-arya" is impossible to determine because it is abundantly clear that these 
terms, as used in the Vedas, do not represent a single distinct community. (For the 
most recent discussion of this topic see Bronkhorst and Deshpande 1999.) 
Nevertheless, it is possible to clarify some points regarding the relationship 
between the Harappan and Late Harappan period to the culture and peoples 
reflected in the Vedic literature. 

One of the most important results of the current work at Harappa is that there 
continues to be no support for the earlier interpretations of Vedic-Aryan invasions 
and the destruction of Harappan settlements. Many scholars have argued that the 
site of Harappa can possibly be associated with a reference in the Rg Veda 
(6.27.4-8) to a place called Hariyupia (Majumdar et al. 1961; Wheeler 1968; 
Singh 1995; Joshi 1999). In this Vedic reference, there is a description of a battle 
between two forces, one led by Abhyavartin, son of Chayamana (Puru clan) and 
the other by Turuvasa (Turuvasa clan), leader of the Vrichivat, seed of Varasika 
(Majumdar et al. 1961: 25-6; Sen 1974). The battle was fought at Hariyupia, 
which appears to have been situated to the east of the Yabyabati River (possibly 
the Ravi). Half of the attacking force was scattered in the west, presumably on the 
other side of the river, while the other portion was defeated by Abhyavartin, aided 
by Indra (Singh 1995). There is no evidence for a battle or conflagration in either 
the Harappan or the Late Harappan levels at the site, but given the nature of many 
historical conflicts it is possible that the battle may have taken place outside of the 
city. Since the invading forces were defeated, there is no need to find destruction 
levels in the city itself and the identification of the place called Hariyupia remains 

However, there is a more serious issue regarding the interpretation of this 
text that must be addressed. The correct translation of the text indicates that 
Wheeler was totally mistaken in his assumption that Hariyupia was a "non-arya" 
settlement and that it was being attacked by a hoard of Indo-Aryan invaders. 
In fact, both the winner, Abhyavartin, and the defeated leader, Turuvasa, belonged 
to "arya" clans (Majumdar et al. 1961; Sen 1974). The army led by Turuvasa 
is referred to as the Vrichivat, race of Varasika. Some scholars argue that the 
Vrichivats were a local community and presumably "non-arya" who were allied 
with the "arya" leader Turuvasa (Majumdar et al. 1961: 26), but this cannot 



be confirmed. Regardless of the identification of the Vrichivat, this often quoted 
text does not convincingly refer to the simple model of superior forces of 
"arya" conquering indigenous "non-arya" communities. On the contrary it 
reflects the complex politics of the Vedic "arya" communities and their propen- 
sity for armed conflict against each other as well as against possible "non-arya" 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the misconception that the Indus people 
as a whole represent the communities referred to in the Vedic literature (Gupta 
1996). The details of these arguments are beyond the scope of this chapter, but an 
example of how this view is supported is reflected in the discussion of settlement 
types. Although the pastoral nature of Vedic communities and their settlements is 
clearly the dominant theme in the Rg Veda, there are references to forts and towns 
that were inhabited by "arya" communities (Bisht 1999). In fact, the text about 
Hariyupia referred to earlier is used by some scholars to argue that, since the peo- 
ple of Hariyupia (i.e. Harappa) were "arya," therefore the entire Indus civilization 
can be associated with Vedic Aryans (Singh 1995). 

S. P. Gupta claims that the Indus-Saraswati civilization does reflect the Vedic 
literature, but that ". . . we cannot determine the percentage at this stage of our 
study when the script remains undeciphered. However it may be 50 percent." 
(Gupta 1996). In making this statement he inadvertently highlights the one aspect 
of Indus technology that is clearly not mentioned in any of the Vedas, that is, the 
technology of writing. Although the training of the three highest castes is explic- 
itly outlined in the later texts, there is no mention of learning the art of writing or 
reading itself (Dandekar 1947). Furthermore, there are no words for pens, read- 
ing, writing, inscription, or any other materials associated with writing in the 
Vedas (Macdonell and Keith 1967). 

The presence of a well-defined system of writing during the Harappan period 
clearly precludes this culture from having any direct connection with Vedic 
culture. However, the general lack of writing during the Late Harappan could 
be correlated to the absence of any reference to writing in the Vedic period. 
The change in the Late Harappan burial practices and introduction of new sym- 
bols on Late Harappan painted pottery also may have some correlation with Vedic 
burial traditions and decorative arts (Sankalia 1979). The Rg Veda refers to 
several types of burial, including earth burials and cremation. It is clear from the 
careful reading of the excavation reports of Vats that there is no evidence for 
cremation at Harappa, but there are earth burials in Stratum II of Cemetery H. 
In later texts dating to c.800 bc, there are detailed instructions on how to 
collect bones that have been either buried or exposed for a specified length of 
time and place them in a pot with a lid that is then buried in a pit (Grihya-Sutra 
4.4.1 and 4.5.1-6) (Oldenberg 1964). Pot burials from the later Stratum I in 
Cemetery H could reflect an earlier example of this type of secondary or frac- 
tional burial. However, the limited nature of the data make it impossible to make 
any conclusive statements about the presence or absence of Vedic communities at 



According to many scholars, the chronological framework for the final phases of 
the Harappan and the Late Harappan occupation at Harappa does correspond 
broadly with the time frame for the Rg Vedic period. Therefore, it is not improbable 
that some communities referred to in the Vedas were passing through or living in the 
regions controlled by Harappa during both the Harappan (Period 3C 2250-1900 bc) 
and the Late Harappan times (1900-1700 or 1300 bc). However, instead of trying to 
identify Indo-Aryans who are a modern construct, it is more important to focus 
future research on the more complex array of cultures that are identified in the Vedic 
literature. Further archaeological studies must be undertaken at sites that are more 
directly linked to the Vedic period in order to build a transitional chronology from 
the Harappan period through the Late Harappan and on into the Early Historic 
period. In order to complement the studies of artifacts and architecture, it is neces- 
sary to undertake new and more intensive studies of the human remains from these 
same periods. By increasing the sample size of human skeletons and developing 
more detailed studies of the artifacts associated with the burials, it will be possible 
to make more meaningful comparisons with reference to material culture and the 
many different communities identified in the Vedic literature. 


I would like to express my gratitude to the Department of Archaeology, 
Government of Pakistan for providing the opportunity to work at Harappa. 
Special thanks to all of the team members who have been involved in the Harappa 
Archaeological Research Project, and particularly those involved in the study of 
the levels dating to the Late Harappan period; the late Dr George F. Dales, 
Dr Richard H. Meadow, Rose Drees, Carl Lipo, John Berg, Manabu Koiso, and 
Paul Christy Jenkins. I would also like to acknowledge the facilities provided by 
the Archaeological Survey of India in obtaining copies and permission to use 
photographs from the earlier excavations at Harappa from their archives. 


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Perpetuation of a myth 

B. B. Lai 

When, as far back as 1786, a Calcutta High Court judge, Sir William Jones, made 
a very significant linguistic observation, little did he realize that his findings, in 
subsequent centuries, would involve scholars from all over the world in a furious 
debate over an issue termed "The Aryan invasion of India." All that Sir William 
had stated was: 

The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure, 
more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more 
exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them stronger 
affinity both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar than could 
have been produced by accident, so strong indeed, that no philologer [sic] 
could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from 
some common source, which perhaps no longer exists . . . 

(Jones 1788: 422-3) 

This simple observation led, in the course of time, to the propounding of a theory 
that there existed a "race" which was the carrier of these languages westward to 
Europe and eastward to India. And somewhere in Central Asia was thought to be 
the "original home" of these envisioned Indo-Europeans, though many scholars 
preferred this "home" to have been located in Russia or northern Europe. This 
envisaged migration from Central Asia/Europe to India via Iran and Afghanistan 
marked the beginning of a subsequently more aggressive invasion theory. 

Nearly a century later, an eminent Sanskrit scholar, F. Max Miiller, made yet 
another very significant pronouncement, namely, that the Rigveda was to be dated 
around 1200 bc. Though no doubt this dating gave to Sanskrit a respectable anti- 
quity in world literature, Max Miiller's computation, it must at once be added, was 
purely ad hoc. Accepting that the Sutra literature existed at the time of the 
Buddha around the sixth to fifth century bc, he assigned a period of 200 years to 
each of the successively preceding groups of literary productions, namely, the 
Aranyakas, Brahmanas, and Vedas. It is in this arbitrary manner that the date of 



1200 bc was arrived at. When criticized by a host of his contemporaries, such as 
Goldstucker, Whitney and Wilson, Max Miiller raised his hands up by stating in 
his preface to the text of the Rigyeda: 

I have repeatedly dwelt on the merely hypothetical character of the dates, 
which I have ventured to assign to first periods of Vedic literature. All 
I have claimed for them has been that they are minimum dates, and that 
the literary productions of each period which either still exist or which 
formerly existed could hardly be accounted for within shorter limits of 
time than those suggested. 

(Max Miiller 1890, reprint 1979) 

And then came the final surrender: 

If now we ask as to how we can fix the dates of these periods, it is quite 
clear that we cannot hope to fix a terminum a qua [sic]. Whether the 
Vedic hymns were composed [in] 1000 or 2000 or 3000 years bc, no 
power on earth will ever determine. 


Unfortunately, in spite of such a clear-cut retreat by the clergy himself, his 
earlier fatwa still holds the ground. Many Western scholars and their Indian fol- 
lowers continue to swear by 1200 bc as the date of the Rigveda and do not dare 
cross this Laksmana rekha. 

That was the scenario on the literary front toward the end of the nineteenth century. 
But the ground reality still was that even as late as 1920, Western scholars denied 
to India any iota of civilization prior to the invasion of Alexander in 326 bc. 

Tables, however, turned when in 1921 Daya Ram Sahni and in 1922 
R. D. Banerjee carried out trial excavations respectively at Harappa in Punjab and 
Mohenjo-daro in Sindh and brought to light archaeological evidence that threw 
back, with a single stroke, the antiquity of Indian civilization from the fourth 
century bc to the third millennium bc. The initial discovery was followed up by 
large-scale excavations, by John Marshall and E. J. H. Mackay at Mohenjo-daro, 
and M. S. Vats at Harappa. The emergent picture was that as far back as the third 
millennium bc India did have a civilization of its own, which in some ways even 
excelled the contemporary civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Not only did 
the Indian civilization cover a much vaster terrain than did either of the aforesaid 
Western civilizations, but it also produced ample evidence of systematic town- 
planning and an underground system of drainage. The use of kiln-fired bricks, 
unknown to the then Western world, was a common feature at the Indian sites. The 
people produced all kinds of objets d'art, so much so that the excellently carved 
steatite seals can well be the envy of any seal-cutter, past or present. 

At this point begins the next phase of the 'Aryan invasion" theory. Since Max 
Miiller had given the fatwa that the Vedas were not earlier than 1200 bc and this 
newly discovered civilization was ascribable to the third millennium bc, it was argued 


B. B. LAL 

that it could never have been the creation of the Vedic people, who were termed as 
the Aryans. (Here, perhaps it needs to be clarified that in the Vedic texts the word 
"Atya" was not used in any racial sense; it only meant the "noble one.") Further, since 
India has two dominant language groups, namely, the Sanskritic and the Dravidian, 
it was held that the Dravidian- speakers were the authors of this civilization. 

Then came the master stroke of the "Aryan invasion" theory. In the year 1944, 
a British Brigadier, Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler (later knighted), operating on 
the soil of Egypt in the Second World War, was invited by the then Viceroy of 
India, Lord Wavell, to take charge of the Archaeological Survey of India, as its 
Director General. He was attracted by the site of Harappa and in 1946 took up 
further excavations. And although an officer of the Survey had already noticed 
the remains of a mud-brick wall around one of the mounds (Mound AB), to 
Wheeler must go the credit of duly establishing the existence of a fortification 
around it. However, the manner in which he interpreted his newly found data is, 
to say the least, not only dramatic but also unwarranted. He averred: 

The Aryan invasion of the Land of Seven Rivers, the Punjab and its envi- 
rons, constantly assumes the form of an onslaught upon the walled cities of 
the aborigines. For these cities the term used in the Rigveda is pur, mean- 
ing a "rampart," "fort" or "stronghold." . . . Indra, the Aryan War god, is 
purarhdara, "fort-destroyer." He shatters "ninety forts" for his Aryan 
protege Divodasa. [. . .] 

Where are - or were - these citadels? It has in the past been supposed 
that they were mythical, or were "merely places of refuge against attack, 
ramparts of hardened earth with palisades and a ditch." The recent exca- 
vation of Harappa may be thought to have changed the picture. Here we 
have a highly evolved civilization of essentially non-Aryan type, now 
known to have employed massive fortifications, and known also to have 
dominated the river-system of north-western India at a time not distant 
from the likely period of the earlier Aryan invasions of that region. What 
destroyed this firmly settled civilization? Climatic, economic, political 
deterioration may have weakened it, but its ultimate extinction is more 
likely to have been completed by deliberate and large-scale destruction. It 
may be no mere chance that at a late period of Mohenjo-daro men, women 
and children appear to have been massacred there. On circumstantial 
evidence, Indra stands accused. 

(Wheeler 1947: 82) 

We may now examine the validity of Wheeler's assertion, and begin with the 
so-called massacre. Altogether thirty-seven skeletons, some full and others 
fragmentary, were found at Mohenjo-daro during the course of nine years of exca- 
vation at the site. All these come from the Lower Town, which was the general habi- 
tation area, but none from the Citadel, the seat of government. If there was an 
invasion, how come that the Citadel remained completely unaffected? Anyway, the 



thirty-seven skeletons turned up from different stratigraphic levels: some from the 
Intermediate one, some from the Late; and yet some others are reported to have 
been found in deposits subsequent to the abandonment of the site. If these skeletons 
do really represent a massacre by invaders, they should have come from the 
uppermost level of the site. But this was not the case at all. Second one does expect 
some evidence, by way of some vestiges, left behind by the invaders. Nothing what- 
soever of the kind has been found at the site. Still more, some of the skeletons bore 
cut-marks which had healed. Had the death occurred as a result of an invasion, it 
would have been immediate and there would have been no time available for the 
cuts to have healed. Indeed George F. Dales (1964) very aptly decried this so-called 
massacre as "The Mythical Massacre at Mohenjo-daro." 

In this context it needs to be added that no site of Harappan civilization, be it 
Kot Diji or Amri in Sindh or Harappa itself in Punjab or Kalibangan in Rajasthan 
or Banawali in Haryana or Lothal, Surkotada, or Dholavira in Gujarat, has yielded 
any evidence whatsoever of any violent destruction, much less of an invasion. On 
the other hand most of these sites have given evidence of a transition from the 
Mature Harappan stage to that of a localized degenerated culture-complex. Thus, 
for instance, Amri and Mohenjo-daro have yielded the remains of what is known 
as the Jhukar culture, and it has been demonstrated by Mughal (1992) that the 
Jhukar complex is nothing but a devolution of the Harappa culture itself. 
Likewise, the current excavators of Harappa, Kenoyer and Meadow, have shown 
that the so-called Cemetery H culture is nothing but a localized change from the 
Harappa culture. A similar scenario is available in Rajasthan and Haryana. Lothal 
and Rangpur, put together, have amply demonstrated that the Harappa culture grad- 
ually transformed itself into what has been labeled as the Rangpur culture. Thus, 
nowhere in the entire area occupied by the Harappan civilization do we have any 
evidence of wanton destruction or invasion, much less by Aryan marauders! 

In spite of the foregoing evidence, the champions of the Aryan invasion theory 
keep harping on some old arguments. For example, it is held by them that the river 
SarasvatI mentioned in the Rigveda is not the present-day Sarasvatl-Ghaggar 
of India, but the Helmand of Afghanistan. Thus, they argue, the Aryans must 
have come from outside, via Afghanistan. A noted historian, R. S. Sharma, writes: 

The fundamentalists want to establish the superiority of the Sarasvati 
river over the Indus because of communal considerations. In the 
Harappan context they think that after partition the Indus belongs to the 
Muslims and only the Sarasvati remains with the Hindus (S. P. Gupta in 
S. P. Gupta, ed. 1995: 181-3). [Dr S. P. Gupta informs me that he never 
made any such statement.] The Sarasvati receives much attention in the 
Rg Veda and several suktas are devoted to it; so they want to use it for 
their purpose. But it seems that there are several Sarasvatis, and the 
earliest Sarasvati cannot be identified with the Hakra and the Ghaggar. In 
the Rg Veda the Sarasvati is called the best of rivers (nadltama). It seems 
to have been a great river with perennial water. Hakra and Ghaggar 


B. B. LAL 

cannot match it. The earliest Sarasvati is considered identical with the 
Helmand in Afghanistan which is called Harakhwati in the Avesta. 

(1999: 35-6) 

But, in the same breath he confesses 

But the archaeology of the Helmand valley in the second millennium bc 
needs adequate attention. Its two large cities Shahr-i-Sokhta and 
Mundigak show decay in this period. In place of wheel-turned pottery 
Mundigak V shows hand-turned pottery. The users of this pottery may 
have come from outside, but we need more information about them. 


However, in spite of his own confession, he insists: 

In any case the linguistic time-place proximity of the Avesta and the 
Rg Veda leaves no doubt that the early Vedic Sarasvati is the same as the 
Harakhwati or the Helmand. As the Rgvedic people expanded they took 
the name Sarasvati to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, and also to Garhwal. 


That the equation of the Sarasvati with the Helmand is patently wrong would 
be amply clear from the Vedic texts themselves. The famous Nadl Sukta of the 
Rigveda (10.75.5) places the Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej, as 
would be seen from the following: 

Imam me Gauge Yamune Sarasvati Sutudri stomam sachata Parusnya 

Since there are no rivers by the names of the Yamuna and Sutudri in 
Afghanistan, it is futile to look over there for the Vedic Sarasvati which lay 
between the two aforesaid rivers. 

Again, as categorically mentioned in the following verse of the Rigveda (7.95.2), 
the Sarasvati rose from the mountains and fell into the ocean: 

Ekachetat Sarasvati nadlnam suchiryati giribhya asamudrat 

The Helmand does not fall into the ocean; the ocean is just not there. 

Further, the Rigveda (3.23.4) mentions the Drisadvati and Apaya as tributaries of 
the Sarasvati: 

Drisadvatyam manusa Apayayam Sarasvatyam revad ague didhi 
These two rivers are in Haryana (India) and not in Afghanistan. 

If none of the aforesaid associations of the Rigvedic Sarasvati can be found out 
in the Afghan region, how can we transport the Rigvedic Sarasvati to that region? 



Mere similarity in name does not mean much. The transference of name could as 
well have been the other way about. It is well known that the Avesta is later than 
the Rigveda. 

There is yet another point which calls for comments. According to Sharma 
(1999), "the earliest Sarasvati cannot be identified with the Hakra and the 
Ghaggar. In the Rg Veda the Sarasvati is called the best of the rivers (nadltama). 
It seems to have been a great river with perennial water. The Hakra and the 
Ghaggar cannot match it." Perhaps Sharma is blissfully unaware of, or maybe 
he deliberately ignores, the path-breaking work that teams of geologists and 
other scientists have carried out during the past two decades on the various 
aspects of the river-system that now goes by the names of the Sarasvatl- 
Ghaggar in Haryana and Rajasthan in India and the Hakra and Nara in 
Cholistan and Sindh in Pakistan. Without going into the enormous details of 
the findings of these experts, it may perhaps suffice here to quote from two of 
their papers. Based on a critical study of Landsat imagery, Yash Pal and his 
colleagues observe: 

The ancient bed of the Ghaggar has a constant width of about 6 to 8 km 
from Shatrana in Punjab to Marot in Pakistan. The bed stands out very 
clearly having a dark tone in the black-and-white imagery and reddish one 
in false colour composites. There is a clear palaeo-channel south-east of 
the river Markanda which joins the bed of the Ghaggar near Shatrana. 
The present Sarasvati mostly flows through this channel. 

(1984: 495) 

Our studies show that the Satluj was the main tributary of the Ghaggar and 
that subsequently the tectonic movements may have forced the Satluj 
westward and the Ghaggar dried. 

(Ibid.: 494) 

As discussed above, during the period 4-5 millennia bp northwestern 
Rajasthan was a much greener place with the Sarasvati flowing through 
it. Some of the present rivers joined to make the Sarasvati a mighty river 
which probably discharged into the sea (Rann of Kutch) through the 
Nara, without joining the Indus. 

(Ibid.: 497) 

Another highly scientific study, made by V. M. K. Puri and B. C. Verma 
(1998), has established that the Sarasvati originated from the glaciers in the 
Himalayas and thus had a perennial supply of water on its own. These experts 

Drainage analysis, basin identification, glaciological and terrace studies 
suggest that the Vedic Saraswati originated from a group of glaciers in 
Tons fifth order basin at Naitwar in Garhwal Himalaya. In early stages, 


B. B. LAL 

it occupied the present day drainage of Tons river up to Paonta Doon and 
took a westerly swing after receiving nourishment from Algar, Yamuna 
and Giri. West of Paonta, it followed a westerly and southwesterly course 
along Bata valley and entered plains at Adh Badri. 

(Puri and Verma 1998: 19) 

May it be hoped that the foregoing scientific evidence dispels all doubts in the 
minds of Sharma and his associates about the river now going by the names of 
Sarasvatl-Ghaggar-Hakra-Nara as having been the Rigvedic Sarasvatl? 

There is yet another issue which needs to be dealt with. Drawing his inspiration 
from Walter A. Fairservis Jr (1995), R. S. Sharma writes (1999: 77): "According 
to Fairservice [sic], the pastoralists who moved to the Indian borderland came from 
Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex or the BMAC which saw the genesis 
of the culture of the Rg Veda." But Sharma completely ignores the inherent weak- 
ness of the case, even though admitted by Fairservis himself when he wrote the 
concluding line of his paper under reference (1995: 211): "Whatever the case, 
we are justified by our evidence in making these speculations, remote as they may 
be from the truth." 

Speculations, bravo! But can someone please cite even a single site in India, 
east of the Indus (which was the main scene of activity of the Rigvedic people), 
where the remains of the BMAC Complex, have been found? Insofar as the 
present author is aware, there is no such evidence. Then, why indulge in such 

Just as a drowning person tries to catch hold of every bit of straw that comes 
his way, so does Sharma when he cites every conceivable archaeological outfit to 
uphold the theory of Aryan invasion of India. He says: 

Lying in the geographical area of the Rg Veda, Cemetery-H and Pirak 
show traits of Aryan culture. More importantly, similar sites appear in 
the valleys of the Rg Vedic rivers Suvastu (Swat), GomatI (Gomal) and 
YavyavatI (Zhob). All these sites found in the river valleys or outside fur- 
nish adequate archaeological data to establish the arrival of the Rg Vedic 
people in the first half of second millennium bc. 

(Sharma 1999: 67) 

While detailed comments on this equation will be offered in a subsequent 
publication, it would suffice here to point out that no archaeologist worth his salt 
would venture to argue that these various disparate culture-complexes, namely, 
those of the Gandhara Graves, Pirak, Cemetery H, and Zhob valley are creations 
of one and the same people. There may have been some minor interaction between 
Pirak and the Gandhara Grave sites, but there was none whatsoever between these 
two and the Cemetery H culture on the one hand and the Zhob culture on the 
other. To equate the Pirak culture with the Painted Grey Ware culture (ibid.: 73) is 
another example of sheer desperation. 



To underpin his argument about the Zhob culture being that of the Aryans, 
Sharma says: 

We may note that the river Zhob is identical with YavyavatI of the 
Rg Veda and Indra with his two red steeds is said to have destroyed three 
thousand warriors in a tribal war on this river. 

(Ibid.: 63) 

From Sharma 's line of argument it would follow that any archaeological culture 
falling in the valleys of rivers mentioned in the Rigveda should be ascribed to the 
Aryans. If that be so, what is wrong with the Harappan civilization itself which 
spread in the valleys of almost all the rivers mentioned in the Rigveda? Anyway, 
Sharma ought to be aware of the fact that the Zhob culture has been placed by 
knowledgeable archaeologists in the third millennium bc. Does he mean to give 
up his mid-second millennium BC-'Aryan invasion" theory and take it back to the 
third millennium bc? The choice is his. 

In order to project a clear picture of what actually transpired on the Indo-Pakistan 
subcontinent during the prehistoric/protohistoric times it becomes necessary to go 
into the whole question of the genesis, evolution, and devolution of the Harappan 
civilization itself. For long it had been propagated by certain scholars that it was a 
peripheral offshoot of the West Asian cultures. When called upon to produce concrete 
evidence in support of their thesis, and failing to do so, the proponents took shelter 
under a saying "ideas have wings." But indeed there were no ideas, much less wings. 

Recent excavations on the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent have fully demonstrated that 
there was a gradual evolution of the Harappa culture from a Neolithic-Chalcolithic 
beginning in the seventh to sixth millennium bc, demonstrating that the Harappans 
were the "sons of the soil." And although space does not permit me to go into the 
details of this evolution, some basic facts substantiating it must nevertheless be stated. 

As far back as 1951, Walter A. Fairservis had discovered the remains of a pre - 
pottery Neolithic assemblage at Kile Ghul Mohammad, 3 kilometers northeast of 
Quetta, in Baluchistan, and radiocarbon dates assigned the upper levels of these 
deposits to the fifth millennium bc. But no serious notice was taken of these find- 
ings. Maybe because the excavations were on a small scale, but more likely 
because at that point of time it was generally believed that such early cultures 
were the preserve of Western Asia. 

Anyway, this erroneous impression was rectified some twenty-five years later by 
large-scale excavations carried out by J. F. Jarrige and his colleagues at Mehrgarh, 
a site on the Kachhi plains, about a hundred kilometers southeast of Kile Ghul 
Mohammad (Jarrige and Lechevallier 1979; Jarrige 1981, 1982, 1984). The occu- 
pational deposits, divided into seven cultural periods, yielded, from bottom 
upwards, the remains of a Neolithic complex, followed by a Chalcolithic complex, 
on to early and mature bronze ages. The Neolithic deposits, accounting for a total 
thickness of 10 meters and on the basis of radiometric chronology dating back to 
the seventh millennium bc, were divisible into two sub-periods, namely, 1 A and IB, 


B. B. LAL 

of which the former was bereft of pottery. The inhabitants used polished stone axes 
and microliths, hunted wild animals and only rarely domesticated them. By Sub- 
period IB, there was regular domestication of animals, among which the cattle 
predominated over sheep and goat. A handmade coarse ware with mat-impressed 
designs also began to be used. The cultivated cereals included barley and wheat, 
with much greater emphasis on the former. The subsistence pattern, it needs to be 
emphasized, was quite different from that of Western Asia, where wheat and not 
barley, and sheep and goat but not the cattle dominated the scene. It is, thus, clear 
that the two areas developed their own subsistence patterns, quite independent of 
the other. In other words, even as far back as the seventh millennium bc the Indian 
subcontinent had started laying the foundation of its own cultural evolution. 

In the context of the subsistence pattern, it may be well worth mentioning that 
barley and not wheat was the mainstay of the Rigvedic people. Likewise, the 
cattle and not goat and sheep were their main animal wealth. 

The Neolithic period was followed by a Chalcolithic one (Period II) wherein 
stone tools became less dominant and metal (copper) began to be exploited. 
Further, the hand-made pottery began to be discarded and a wheel-turried red 
ware with designs painted in black came into being. All this happened around 
4500 bc. Period III produced evidence of what may be called public granaries, 
implying a surplus economy as well as an organizational set-up. Subsequent periods 
of Mehrgarh, supplemented by the evidence from a nearby site called Nausharo, 
carried the story right into the Harappan times and even later. 

The combined evidence from sites like Kot Diji in Sindh, Harappa itself 
in Punjab, Kalibangan in Rajasthan and Banawali and Kunal in Haryana shows 
that many of the characteristic features of the Mature Harappan civilization had 
begun to manifest themselves by about 3000 bc. For example, the houses were 
oriented along the cardinal directions, with the streets naturally following suit. 
The typical Harappan brick-size ratio of 4 : 2 : 1 had also come into being. Some 
of the settlements, like Kot Diji, Kalibangan, and Banawali were also fortified. In 
the pottery repertoire, many of the shapes and painted designs duly anticipated 
the upcoming Harappan pottery. And so was the case with other household 
objects. The pottery bore certain graffiti marks which, for all one can guess, may 
have contributed in some way toward the make-up of the Harappan script. 
However, what were lacking were weights and measures and inscribed seals and 
sealings and, of course, the monumental script. It appears that c.2600 bc there was 
a big spurt in both internal as well as external trade (the latter with regions now 
comprising Iraq, Arabia, Iran, and Central Asia), which necessitated the creation 
of a system of weights and measures, of seals to mark the cargo and a script to 
keep accounts. This mature stage of the Harappan civilization continued till about 
the beginning of the second millennium bc, after which a degeneration began to 
set in. Many factors contributed to this economic regression, some man-made and 
some natural. Overexploitation of land without taking adequate steps to maintain 
its fertility and the cutting down of forests for firing billions of bricks may have 
been the human contribution. 



But no less significant were the natural causes. There is ample evidence to 
show that the Sarasvati, to which a reference has already been made earlier, dried 
up around the beginning of the second millennium bc. Originating from the gla- 
ciers in the Himalayas, in antiquity this river had ample water of its own, which 
was further augmented by the waters of the Sutlej . However, tectonic movements 
in the Himalayan region not only blocked the passage of this river through the 
Siwaliks but also diverted the Sutlej into the Indus system. 

This is what the experts, Puri and Verma, have to say about the matter: 

The cumulative effect of the above-mentioned events, viz. reactivation 
of Yamuna tear, constriction of catchment area of Vedic Saraswati by 
94.05%, emergence and migration of river Drishadvati towards southeast 
acquiring the present day Yamuna course and finally shifting of Shatudri 
(Satluj) forced Vedic Saraswati to change drastically from the grandeur of 
a mighty and a very large river to a mere seasonal stream that depended for 

its nourishment on monsoon precipitation only [Thus] Vedic Saraswati 

was completely disoriented and attained the present day status of oblivion. 

(1998: 19) 

With the drying up of the Sarasvati, the impoverished folks of the Harappan 
settlements in its valley were obliged to move eastwards where they could get 
reasonable water-supply, to sites like Hulas and Alamgirpur in the upper 
Ganga- Yamuna Valley. Perhaps a change of climate to aridity may have also 
added to the troubles of the Harappans. And the final blow to the prosperity of the 
Harappans seems to have been delivered by the snapping of the trade with 
Western Asia. Thus, as already discussed, there was a gradual decline of the 
Harappan civilization and there is clearly no evidence whatsoever for invoking an 
"Aryan invasion" for its downfall. 

At this point it may be worth while to draw attention to a very telling piece 
of biological evidence. Hemphill and his colleagues have the following to say: 

As for the question of biological continuity within the Indus Valley, 
two discontinuities appear to exist. The first occurs between 6000 and 
4500 bc and is reflected by the strong separation in dental non-metric 
characters between neolithic and chalcolithic burials at Mehrgarh. The 
second occurs at some point after 800 bc and before 200 bc. In the inter- 
vening period, while there is dental non-metric, craniometric, and cranial 
non-metric evidence for a degree of internal biological continuity, statis- 
tical evaluation of cranial data reveals clear indication of an interaction 
with the West specifically with the Iranian Plateau. 

(1991: 137) 

It is thus clear that even though there may have been some sporadic "interaction" 
between Iran and the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent between c.4500 bc and 800 bc, 


B. B. LAL 

there was a basic biological continuity in the subcontinent during this period - a 
fact which leaves no room for any infiltration of an "alien" stock. 

The biological evidence fully endorses the archaeological data adduced earlier, 
which too rules out any hypothesis of newcomers devastating the Harappan 
civilization. To summarize what has been stated previously, it is a continuous 
story of evolution from the Chalcolithic stage in the fifth millennium bc to 
the Mature Harappan in the third millennium bc. Then, at the beginning of the 
second millennium bc there sets in a devolution process, brought about by a 
variety of causes such as overexploitation of the landscape, changes in climate 
and river-courses and a steep fall in trade. The affluence graph, which dramati- 
cally soared up around the middle of the third millennium bc, fell sharply in the 
first quarter of the second millennium bc. Parodying Tennyson's The Brook, the 
impoverished Harappan villages must have whispered to one another 

C'ties may come c'ties may go 
But we go on for ever. 

There is no case whatsoever for any cultural break, much less for an "Aryan invasion." 
We may now have a brief look at what some scholars, Indian and Western, have 
to say. Writing in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bombay, a noted Indian 
historian, Romila Thapar, states: 

it is now generally agreed that the decline of Harappan urbanism was due 
to environmental changes of various kinds, to political pressures and possi- 
ble break in trading activities, and not to any invasion. Nor does the archaeo- 
logical evidence register the likelihood of a massive migration from Iran to 
northwestern India on such a scale as to overwhelm the existing cultures. 

If invasion is discarded then the mechanism of migration and occasional 
contacts come into sharper focus. The migrations appear to have been of 
pastoral cattle-herders who are prominent in the Avesta and Rig Veda. 


Once it is conceded that there is no evidence to support the invasion theory, where 
indeed is the need to flog the dead horse by formulating another theory, namely that 
of sporadic "migration and occasional contacts" by "pastoral cattle-herders?" What 
archaeological evidence is there to substantiate the theory even in its new garb? 

Now let us see what some Western scholars have to say on this subject. I will 
take one example each from the UK and the USA, the two countries whose 
scholars are very much involved in this debate. Commenting on the issue, 
the distinguished archaeologist from the UK, Colin Renfrew wrote: 

When Wheeler speaks of "the Aryan invasion of the Land of the Seven 
Rivers, the Punjab," he has no warranty at all, so far as I can see. If one 
checks the dozen references in the Rig Veda to the seven rivers, there is 
nothing in any of them that to me implies an invasion. 



. . . Despite Wheeler's comments, it is difficult to see what is particularly 
non- Aryan about the Indus Valley. 

(1987: 188, 190) 

And here is what Jim G. Shaffer, who has done a lot of archaeological field-work 
in India, and Diane Lichtenstein, both from the USA, have to say: 

A few scholars have proposed that there is nothing in the "literature" firmly 
placing the Indo-Aryans . . . outside of South Asia, and now archaeological 
record is confirming this. ... As data accumulate to support cultural conti- 
nuity in South Asian prehistoric and historic periods, a considerable 
restructuring of existing interpretive paradigms must take place. We reject 
most strongly the simplistic historical interpretations, which date back to 
the eighteenth century, that continue to be imposed on South Asian cultural 
history. These still prevailing interpretations are significantly diminished 
by European ethnocentrism, colonialism, racism and antisemitism. 

(1999: 256) 

It would thus be seen that the Aryan invasion theory, which was in an embry- 
onic stage in the eighteenth century, acquired adolescence in the nineteenth and 
entered its full adulthood in the first part of the twentieth century, is today clearly 
on its death-bed, breathing its last in spite of some attempts to revive it by using 
life-saving drugs like the "sporadic migration and occasional contacts" theory. 
One need not be surprised if with the dawn of the twenty-first century there takes 
place a ceremonial burial as well. 

The foregoing discussion is not an end in itself. It has only established that the 
Aryan invasion theory is a myth. Now, if the Aryans were not the destroyers of the 
Harappan civilization, does it automatically follow that they themselves were its 
authors? The answer should be a "No," unless it is proved to be so. 

Over the years claims have been raised in respect of the Dravidians as well as 
the Aryans to have been the authors of the Harappan civilization. No third claim 
has come up so far, though there could be nothing to bar it. In this context it needs 
to be restated that the two terms, namely, Dravidian and Aryan, were once used 
in a racial sense, which definition appears to have faded away. These terms are 
now used in a linguistic sense. So the question boils down to: Were the Harappans 
speakers of a Dravidian language or of a Sanskritic one? Here it must be remem- 
bered that the entire population extending over such a vast territory may not have 
spoken exclusively one language. While one of the aforesaid languages may have 
predominated the other may still have been present there, though in a smaller 
section of the society. In fact, one need not be surprised if a third language, of 
Austric affiliation, may also have been present. 

Scholars like Asko Parpola (1969) and Walter A. Fairservis (1992) have claimed 
that the Harappans were a Dravidian-speaking people, whereas S. R. Rao (1982), 


B. B. LAL 

M. V N. Krishna Rao (1982), and Richter-Ushanas (1992) hold that the language 
spoken by the Harappans was Sanskrit. In fact, the last-named a German scholar, 
reads Vedic verses in the inscriptions on the seals. I have reviewed most of these 
claims and have demonstrated that not only are the readings arrived at untenable 
but even the methodology adopted by these scholars is questionable (Lai 1970, 
1974, 1983). An amusing part of these decipherments is that no two Dravidianists 
among themselves see eye to eye, and so is the case with the Sanskritists. There 
are a few simple tests that can be applied to these decipherments. In the first 
place, a value assigned to a sign must remain constant throughout the readings; it 
should not be changed according to the whim and fancy of the decipherer. 
Second the key thus used should be capable of unlocking all the inscriptions. 
Third the readings arrived at should make sense in the language concerned. If 
these criteria are met with, one would be only too glad to accept the decipher- 
ment, but unfortunately, nobody has succeeded as yet. Nevertheless, all attempts 
should be directed toward an acceptable decipherment for it is indeed the script 
that may be said to hold the master key. 

Anyway, even in the absence of a successful decipherment, the two claims about 
the authorship of the Harappan civilization still loom large. We would perhaps do 
well to examine the arguments put forward in support of both these claims and see 
the outcome. 

To begin with the Dravidian claim. It may be recalled that toward the end of the 
nineteenth century Max Muller gave the fatwa that the Vedas were unlikely to 
have been earlier than 1200 bc. Thus, when in the early twentieth century the 
Harappan civilization was discovered and on the basis of its contacts with the 
Mesopotamian civilization, was dated to the third millennium bc, it was but nat- 
ural to assert that the Vedic people could not have been its authors. Since the other 
dominant group in the country was that of the Dravidian-speaking people, it was 
taken as a gospel truth that the Harappans must have belonged to this group. 

In support of this thesis many other ingenuous arguments have been adduced. 
In a small pocket of Baluchistan a dialect called Brahui is spoken today. It is 
asserted that when the Dravidian-speaking Harappans were ousted by the invad- 
ing Indo-Aryans, a small community of the Harappans managed to escape the 
onslaught and is now available to us in the form of the Brahui-speaking popula- 
tion in a tiny area of Baluchistan. There are quite a few drawbacks in such a pos- 
tulation. In the first place, not all linguists agree that Brahui is indeed a Dravidian 
tongue. According to some, it is more similar to "modern colloquial eastern 
Elamite." Some others hold that the Brahui-speaking people are not the original 
inhabitants of the area but migrated to it during the medieval times. 

Similarly baseless are other arguments in favor of the Harappan-Dravidian 
equation. For instance it has been suggested that the invading Aryans pushed the 
Dravidian-speaking Harappans all the way down to South India. This stand is 
prima facie wrong. Had the Harappans indeed been sent away to that region, we 
should have come across Harappan sites in the Dravidian-speaking areas, namely, 
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala. The fact, on the contrary, 



is that there is not even a single site of the Harappan civilization in any of these 
states. The only archaeological remains of a comparable antiquity in these regions 
are those of the southern Neolithic culture. Are we then to believe that a full- 
fledged Bronze Age civilization overnight degenerated into a Neolithic one, with 
nothing whatsoever common between the two? This is just not possible. 

Let us look at the issue from another perspective. It has been observed that if in 
an area where the inhabitants speak a particular language, say X, there is an influx 
of another set of people speaking a language called Y, there will still remain 
remnants of the earlier language X. This is particularly reflected in the names of 
some of the rivers and mountains and even of some localities. Thus, for example, 
the names of the well-known North American rivers Missouri and Mississippi or of 
cities like Chicago and states like Massachusetts are carry-overs from the language 
of the original American inhabitants now called the American Indians. This is the 
case in spite of the fact that after the European migration to the USA, the European 
languages, in particular English, are spoken by the people. The same is the story in 
Europe where names of many places, rivers, and mountains of the earlier languages 
have continued even after the spread of the present-day European languages. On 
this analogy, one expects that at least some places, rivers, and mountains would 
have retained Dravidian names if the Harappans spoke that language, even if they 
had been ousted from their original habitat, which was the entire region from the 
Indus in the west to the Yamuna on the east. The total absence of any Dravidian 
names in this region clearly militates against the Harappan-Dravidian equation. 

To discuss yet another argument that has been adduced in favor of the 
Harappan-Dravidian equation, there occur in the Vedas a few words which may 
have been derived from the Dravidian languages. On this basis it has been held 
that the invading Vedic Aryans picked up these words from the Dravidian- speaking 
Harappans whom they conquered. While there is no doubt that the Dravidian 
words could have been borrowed by the Vedic people only through some kind of 
contact with the Dravidian-speaking people, it has been shown earlier that there 
was no Aryan invasion whatsoever. Hence, the borrowing of the Dravidian words 
by the Vedic Aryans cannot be explained by this mechanism. Under such a situa- 
tion, there is another possibility which can explain this borrowing. As a working 
hypothesis, let it be assumed for a while that the Harappans themselves were a 
Sanskrit-speaking people (more will be said about it later). In that case they could 
have easily borrowed some Dravidian words from the southern Neolithic people, 
who are the most likely candidates for having spoken that language. (Ever since 
the dawn of history, Dravidian is the only language known to have been spoken in 
that region.) We also know that the Harappans got their gold supply from the mines 
in South India. Because of this line of contact it would have been normal for the 
Harappans to have picked up some words from the South Indian Neolithic people. 

We have so far established that: (i) the 'Aryan-invasion" theory is nothing but 
a myth and (ii) the Harappans are unlikely to have been a Dravidian-speaking 
people. These formulations lead us to yet another enquiry, namely, were the 
Harappans themselves the much-debated Aryans? Against the Harappan-Aryan 


B. B. LAL 

equation, however, several objections have been raised from time to time, and we 
shall now deal with them. 

The first and most formidable mental barrier that had been created against a 
Harappan-Aryan equation is that of chronology. Since the Harappan civilization 
dates back to the third millennium bc and since according to the fatwa of Max 
Miiller the Vedas are only as old as 1200 bc, it was but natural for all concerned 
to hold that the two cannot be equated. However, as we have already noted Max 
Miiller clearly distanced himself from this hard line (pp. 50-1). Yet it is a pity that 
even now some scholars with a particular mind-set, both in the west and east, are 
trying to hold on to the sinking ship. 

Many distinguished astronomers have drawn our attention to the data given in 
the Vedic texts about the position of the Naksatras. For example, the Aitareya 
Brahmana refers to the shifting of the vernal equinox from the Naksatra Mrigasiras 
to Rohinl. According to these astronomers this event is likely to have taken place 
c.3500 bc. The implication of this would be that the Rigveda will have to be dated 
still earlier. Not being an astronomer myself, I am in no position to offer any 
comments. All that I would urge is that it would be unscientific to just pooh-pooh 
the idea. It is high time that experts from all over the world having a knowledge of 
both Sanskrit and astronomy, sat together and thrashed out the issue. 

However, let us see what archaeology has to say in the matter. We are all familiar 
with the Bughaz Keui inscription assignable to the fourteenth century bc. It records 
a treaty between the Mitanni king Matiwaza and a Hittite king Suppiluliuma. In it 
four deities are invoked namely Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and Nasatya. These are 
clearly Vedic gods. The presence of the Vedic Aryans in that region is once again 
attested to by a treatise which offers instructions regarding horse-training. Terms 
like ekavartana, trivartana, panchavartana, etc. have been used which are noth- 
ing but Sanskrit. There are many more documents from Western Asia which point 
to their Sanskritic origin. Analyzing the entire issue, the distinguished scholar 
T Burrow (1955: 29) has very aptly remarked: "The Aryans appear in Mitanni 
from 1500 bc as the ruling dynasty, which means that they must first have entered 
the country as conquerors." Conquerors from where, one might ask. At that point 
of time there was no other country in the world where these gods - Indra, Mitra, 
Varuna, Nasatya - were worshiped except India. One cannot, therefore, escape 
the conclusion that the conquerors must have gone from this region. Anyway, on 
the basis of this evidence, the Vedas must antedate 1500 bc. 

We may now move on to another very significant evidence. It comes from 
a combination of Vedic texts, archaeology and geomorphology. As discussed 
in some detail earlier, the Rigveda is full of references to the river Sarasvatl. 
It was a mighty flowing river during the Rigvedic times. The Pahchavimsa 
Brahmana gives two very significant pieces of evidence regarding the Sarasvatl. 
In the first place, it confirms the Rigvedic statement that the DrisadvatI 
was a tributary of the Sarasvatl (25.10.13-14). This further knocks the bottom 
out of the assumption that the Sarasvatl is to be equated with the Helmand 
since in Afghanistan there is no river by the name of DrisadvatI. Second it 



states: "At a distance of a journey of forty days on horseback from the spot where 
the SarasvatI is lost (in the sand of the desert), (is situated) Plaksa Prasravana" 
(Calad 1931: 636) (25.10.16). Although with the horse-back-journey distance it 
may not be possible to identify the exact place where the SarasvatI disappeared 
it is nevertheless clear that by the time of the Panchavirhsa Brahmana it was no 
longer alive. And it is here that archaeology, geomorphology, and Landsat 
imagery come to our help. As already stated earlier, the dry bed of the SarasvatI 
has been duly identified with the help of Landsat imagery. 

The excavations at Kalibangan in Rajasthan have demonstrated that the 
Harappan settlement at the site had to be abandoned because of the drying up of 
the adjacent river, now called the Ghaggar but anciently going by the name of the 
SarasvatI. Another Harappan site, Banawali, which lay further upstream along 
this very river, had a similar fate. According to the radiocarbon dates, the end of 
Kalibangan and Banawali seems to have come c. 2000-1 900 bc. In other words, 
the SarasvatI dried up c.2000 bc. This clearly establishes that the Rigveda, which 
speaks of the SarasvatI as a mighty flowing river, has to be assigned to a period 
prior to 2000 bc. By how many centuries, it cannot be said for certain. 

Those who have a mind-set that the Aryans must have come from outside put 
forward arguments which are sometimes quite frivolous. For example, Witzel argues: 

Indirect references to the migration of Indo-Aryan speakers include 
reminiscences of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Thus, the mythical 
Indo-Aryan river *Rasa corresponds to the Vedic Rasa (RY JB), the East 
Iranian Ranha and the north Iranian Raha, which is preserved in Greek as 
Rha, where it designates the river Volga. This is a good example of the 
"migration" of river names, a topic discussed in the previous paper. In the 
same category might fall the rather vague identification of Rgvedic 
rip- with the Rhipaean mountains, the modern Urals (Bongard-Levin 1980). 

(1995: 321) 

While, from the phonetic point of view, there may not be any objection to the 
Rasa— Raha equation, why must it necessarily indicate a "migration" from west to 
east? It could as well have been the other way about. Let us not forget that the Rasa 
was one of the many tributaries of the Indus, as mentioned in the Rigveda (10.75.6) 

Tristamaya prathamam yatave sajuh Susartva Rasaya Svetya tya 

Tvam Sindho Kubhaya Gomatlm Krumum Mehantva saratham yabhiflyase 

It would thus be clear that the Rigvedic Rasa cannot be placed in Iran. The iden- 
tification of rip- with the Ural Mountains is indeed a good example of the heights 
to which flights of imagination can take us. 

Anyway, there are yet two other major objections to an Aryan-Harappan equation. 
It has been argued that whereas the Harappan civilization was urban, the culture 
reflected in the Vedas is nomadic. So how can the two be equated? The other 


B. B. LAL 

objection relates to the horse. The argument is that while the Vedic texts speak so 
often of the horse, the Harappans were unfamiliar with it. We shall now examine 
the validity of these two objections. 

To take up the first, it is entirely wrong to say that the Vedic Aryans were 
nomads or, granting a concession, living in small hamlets, but had no urban com- 
ponent. Perhaps we may begin with references to pur in the Rigveda. As 
Macdonell and Keith (1912, reprint 1982, Vol. I: 538) rightly pointed out, this 
word connotes " 'rampart', 'fort' or 'stronghold'." And here we quote a few of 
the relevant verses, which show that there existed even varieties of forts during 
the Rigvedic times: some made of stone, while some others having a hundred 
(in the sense of many) arms. Thus, RV 4.30.20 states: 

Satamasmanmaylnam puramindro vyasyat Divodasaya dasuse 

For Divodasa, him who brought oblations, Indra overthrew 
A hundred fortresses of stone. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 221) 

Through verse RV 10.101.8, the devotee desires that the fort ought to be very 

. . . varma sivyadhvam bahula prithuni 
purah Krinudhvamayaslradhrista . . . 

. . . stitch ye [oh gods] the coats of armour, wide and many; 
make iron forts, secure from all assailants. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 615) 

Here it needs to be clarified that the word ayas in the Rigveda stands for metal in 
general and it is only in later texts that two separate words came to be used: krisna 
yasa, that is, black metal, for iron; and lohayasa, that is, red metal, for copper/ 
bronze. Anyway, what was really prayed for in the verse under consideration was that 
the gods may construct such a strong fort that the enemy was not able to penetrate it. 
Through another hymn (RV 7.15.14), the devotee further prays that the fort 
ought to have a hundred arms, that is, be very large: 

Adhah Mahi na ayasyanddhristo nripltaye purbhava satabhujih 

And irresistible, be thou a mighty iron fort to us, 
With hundred walls for man's defence. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 340) 

Even though the context and meaning of the word pur is very clear in the above- 
mentioned verses, scholars who have been looking at the Rigvedic text with colored 
glasses keep on repeating the old view that the word does not connote a fort or city. 



In his latest book, Sharma (1999: 39) once again holds out: "But those who have 
adequately examined references to pur in the Vedic texts, particularly in the Rigveda 
do not consider it a fortified town." May not one ask these "those" a simple ques- 
tion: When Wheeler (1947: 82) accused Indra of destroying the Harappan forts, on 
the basis of his epithet "puramdara" (pura = fort, and dam = destroyer), they had 
no hesitation in accepting that the word pur did mean a fort. Now, when the same 
word is found associated with the Aryans themselves, it loses its meaning. What kind 
of logic is this? Unless it be a case of: "Head I win, and tail you lose." 
Looking for an escape route, Sharma goes on to say: 

In our opinion the myths and metaphors relating to the pur suggest that 
it was either a dwelling unit or a cluster of such units as appeared in the 
post-Harappan phase. Particularly the early Vedic stone purs may repre- 
sent the recently discovered rock shelters in which pastoralists lived in 
the hilly tracts of North- West Frontier. 

(1999: 39) 

Sharma has not given any reference to the publication detailing these "rock- 
shelters," but surely one is entitled to ask: What archaeological evidence has he 
found in these caves to associate them with the Rigvedic Aryans? 

It is true that the Rigveda does not provide us details of the inner layout of these 
forts, but surely the text was not meant to be a treatise on Vastusastra. May it 
be remembered that it is essentially a compilation of prayers to gods and should be 
looked at as such. All the evidence that it provides regarding the material culture 
of the then people is only incidental. 

While discussing the urban-rural dichotomy between the Harappans and the 
Rigvedic people, it needs also to be emphasized that the entire Harappan popula- 
tion did not live in cities. There were many more Harappan villages and small 
towns than the metropolitan cities. Thus, if the Rigveda also speaks of rural life, 
besides referring to purs, it is perfectly in order. Whether in the past or at present, 
whether in India or elsewhere, rural and urban components have always been and 
are parts of the same cultural ethos. Hence not much should be made of this issue. 

Unlike nomads (as they are dubbed), the Rigvedic Aryans were engaged in 
trade, maybe even sea-trade, and also had a very well organized civic and admin- 
istrative set-up. A reference to RV 10.33.6 throws valuable light on the Rigvedic 

rayah samudranschaturo asmabhyam soma visvatah a pavasva sahasrinah 

From every side, O Soma, for our profit, pour thou forth four seas filled 
full [sic] of riches thousand fold. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 483) 

For carrying out the sea-trade the Rigvedic people used a variety of 
boats, some of which had as many as a hundred oars, as could be seen from 


B. B. LAL 

the following verse (RV 1.1 16.5): 

anarambhane tadvlrayethamanasthane agrabhane samudre I 
yadasvina uhathurbhujyumastam sataritram navamatasthivansam II 

Ye wrought that hero exploit in the ocean which giveth no support, or hold or 


What time ye carried Bhujyu to his dwelling, borne in a ship with hundred 

oars, O Asvins. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 77) 

That the Rigvedic Aryans were socially and administratively well integrated is 
duly attested to by the occurrence in the text of such terms as sabha, samiti, 
samrat, rajan, rajaka, janaraj a, etc. If the first two terms do not refer to some kind 
of assemblies which took collective decisions on matters of public interest, what 
else do they mean? Likewise, if the next four terms do not point to a hierarchy of 
rulers, where was the need to have these separate words? And here we shall quote 
from the Rigveda itself to show that these terms were indeed used to denote the 
difference in the status of the rulers concerned. Thus, for example, Abhyavartin 
Chayamana, who was a very distinguished ruler, has been referred to as a samrat. 
In contrast, Chitra, a ruler of lesser importance, has been called a rajan. Rulers of 
still lesser status have been called only rajaka. The relevant verses are as follows: 

RV 6.27.8 states: 

dvyam agne rathino vimsatim ga vadhumato maghava mahyam samrat / 
Abhyavartl Chayamana dadati durnaseyam daksina parthavanam II 

Two wagon-teams, with damsels, twenty oxen, O Agni, Abhyavartin 


The liberal Sovran, giveth me. This guerdon of Prithu's seed is hard to win 

from others. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 302) 

In contrast, there is a verse RV 8.21.18: 

Chitra id raja rajaka idanyake yoke Sarasvatlmanu I 
parjanya iva tadanaddhi vristya sahasramayuta dadat II 

Chitra is King and only kinglings are the rest who dwell beside Sarasvatl. 
He, like Parjanya with his rain, hath spread himself with thousand yea, with 
myriad gifts. 

(Griffith 1973, reprint: 412) 

That there was definitely a difference between the status of a samrat on the 
one hand and of a rajan on the other is clear from the explanatory note provided 



in the Satapatha Brahmana (VI. 1.12—13): 

Raja vai rajasuyenestva bhavati, samrad vajapeyena I avaram hi rajyam 
param samrajyam I kamayeta vai raja samrad bhavitum avaram hi 
rajyam param samrajyam / na samrat kamayeta raja bhavitum avaram 
hi rajyam param samrajyam II 

By offering the rajasuya he becomes raja and by the vajapeya he becomes 
samraj, and the office of raj an is lower and that of samraj, the higher; a rajan 
might indeed wish to become samraj, for the office of rajan is lower and that 
of samraj the higher; but the samraj would not wish to become a raja for the 
office of rajan is the lower, and that of samraj the higher. 

What greater authority is needed to settle the issue? 

Now to the horse. Dealing with the terracotta animals from his excavations 
at Mohenjo-daro, Mackay wrote (1938, Vol. 1 : 289; Vol. 2, pi. LXXVIII, no. 1 1): 
"Perhaps the most interesting of the model animals is the one that I personally 
take to represent a horse." Confirming this identification, Wheeler stated: 

One terracotta, from a late level of Mohenjo-daro, seems to represent a 
horse, reminding us that a jaw-bone of a horse is also recorded from the 
same site, and that the horse was known at a considerably earlier period 
in Baluchistan. 

(1968: 92) 

These pieces of evidence, however, were ignored by those who wished to portray 
the Harappan civilization as one without the horse, since the (alleged) absence of 
the horse has been made out to be a strong point against any association of the 
Harappan civilization with the Vedic Aryans. Another reason for doubting the pres- 
ence of the horse in the Harappan civilization seems to have been the absence of 
this animal from the seals. But then the camel is also absent. So why should the 
horse be singled out on that count? 

Anyway, in recent years a lot of evidence has accumulated from Harappan 
sites, both in India and Pakistan. For example, Phase III of Lothal in Gujarat, 
which is Mature Harappan in contents, has yielded a terracotta figure of the 
horse. It has a stumpy tail and the mane is indicated by a low ridge over the neck. 
And this figure is not the only evidence regarding the presence of the horse at 
Lothal. Reporting on the faunal remains from the site, two experts, namely, 
Bholanath of the Zoological Survey of India and G. V Sreenivas Rao of the 
Archaeological Survey, have the following to say: 

The single tooth of the horse referred to above indicates the presence of 
the horse at Lothal during the Harappan period. The tooth from Lothal 
resembles closely with that of the modern horse and has the pli-caballian 


B. B. LAL 

(a minute fold near the base of the spur or protocone) which is a well 
distinguishable character of the cheek teeth of the horse. 

(S. R. Rao 1985: 641) 

From practically all the Harappan occupational sub-periods (IA, IB, and IC 
at Surkotada, another site in Gujarat, come a large number of bones of the horse 
(A. K. Sharma in Joshi 1990: 381). Since the occurrence of the horse in a 
Harappan context has all along been a matter of debate, opinion of an international 
expert was also sought that of Professor Sandor Bokonyi, a renowned archaeo- 
zoologist and the then Director of the Archaeological Institute, Budapest, Hungary. 
And here is what he had to convey, through a letter dated 13 December 1993, 
addressed to the then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India: 

Through a thorough study of the equid remains of the protohistoric 
settlement of Surkotada, Kutch, excavated under the direction of Dr. J. P. 
Joshi, I can state the following: The occurrence of true horse (Equus 
Caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower 
cheek and teeth and by the size and form of the incisors and phalanges 
(toe bones). Since no wild horses lived in India in post-Pleistocene 
times, the domestic nature of the Surkotada horse is undoubtful. This is 
also supported by an inter-maxilla fragment whose incisor tooth shows 
clear signs of crib-biting, a bad habit only existing among domestic 
horses which are not extensively used for war. 

(Bokonyi, December 13, 1993) 

Giving measurements, other details and photographs of the faunal remains in 
a paper published subsequently, Bokonyi (1997: 300) confirmed his findings: 
"All in all, the evidence enumerated above undoubtedly raises the possibility of 
the occurrence of domesticated horses in the mature phase of the Harappa 
Culture, at the end of the third millennium bc." 

However, those who have a mind-set to the contrary are not inclined to accept 
Bokonyi's well argued case. Thus, referring to a discussion that Meadow and 
Patel had with Bokonyi before the latter's death, they write (1997: 308): "We went 
through each point that we had raised and in some cases agreed to disagree. He 
(i.e. Bokonyi) remained firmly convinced that there are the bones of true horse 
{Equus Caballus) in the Surkotada collection, and we remain skeptical." 

While Meadow and Patel have every right to "remain skeptical," it needs no 
emphasis that Bokonyi was an internationally recognized and respected expert on 
the anatomy of horses. 

Anyway, Rupnagar (formerly known as Ropar) in Punjab and Kalibangan 
in Rajasthan have also given evidence of the presence of the horse in Harappan con- 
texts. At the latter site have been found an upper molar, a fragment of a shaft of the 
distal end of a femur and the distal end of a left humerus (A. K. Sharma 1993). 

Insofar as the situation in Pakistan is concerned we have already referred to the 
evidence from Mohenjo-daro. Ross reported a few teeth of the horse from Rana 



Ghundai, a pre-Harappan site in Pakistan, though some scholars, as usual, expressed 
doubt about the identification. The current excavators of Harappa, namely, 
Kenoyer and Meadow, have not reported so far of any remains of horse from 
there. But an earlier faunal collection from Harappa was examined by an expert 
of the Zoological Survey of India, who categorically stated that there were horse 
remains also in it (Bholanath 1959). However, the latest evidence regarding the 
association of the horse with the Harappan civilization comes from the excava- 
tions carried by J.-F. Jarrige and his colleagues at the well-known site of Nausharo 
(Report in press, but type-script privately circulated). Over here a few definitely 
identifiable terracotta figurines of the horse have been found. 

From the foregoing it is clear that the Harappans did use the horse, although 
one would certainly welcome more evidence. As I have said elsewhere (Lai 1997: 
286; 1998: 109-12), the truant horse has crossed the first hurdles! 

There is yet another very important piece of evidence which needs to be 
brought into focus. I am currently working on the flora and fauna mentioned in 
the Rigveda and hope to publish a book on the subject in the near future. 
Meanwhile, it may be stated that almost all the plants and animals mentioned in 
this text relate to the region extending from Afghanistan on the west to the whole 
of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. While full details will be published in the book 
under preparation, some examples may nonetheless be given here. 

The asvattha (Ficus religiosa) tree, mentioned in a number of verses in the Rigveda 
(e.g. 1.35.8; 10.97.5) occurs in sub-Himalayan forests from Panjab eastwards, 
Bengal, Orissa, central India, upper Myanmar (Burma), and Sri Lanka. Likewise, 
Khadira {Acacia catechu), referred to in RV 3.53.19, grows only in India and 
Pakistan. Another noteworthy tree, sirhsapa (Dalbergia sissoo; RV 3.53.19) is found 
in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and scantily in some adjacent parts of Iran. 
Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the sissoo is mentioned in certain 
Mesopotamian texts of the third millennium bc, wherein it is recorded that this valu- 
able wood was imported from eastern regions called Magan and Meluhha, the latter 
being generally identified as the Harappan region. All the Rigvedic trees show the 
above-mentioned kind of distribution pattern. On the other hand, the Rigveda does not 
refer to any tree which is typical of cold regions such as Russia or northern Europe. 

Similar is the story about the Rigvedic fauna. For example, the elephant and 
peacock are typical of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent but have nothing to do with 
the colder climes of Europe or Russia. (The occurrence of the elephant in Africa 
or of the peacock in southeast Asia has no relevance in the present context.) 

Hence the combined evidence of the flora and fauna militates against the thesis 
of the immigration of the Rigvedic people from a hypothetical "cold-climate home." 

Finally, we may refer to the Rigvedic geography itself. The Nadl Sukta, already 
referred to earlier, enumerates the rivers with which the Rigvedic people were 
familiar. Starting from the Ganga in the east, the Silkta continues to mention the 
western rivers more or less in a serial order, subject, of course, to the constraints 
of poetic metrology. While dealing with the Indus, it mentions a large number of 
its tributaries which joined it from the west. These include, among others, the 


B. B. LAL 

Kubha, Krumu, and Gomatl, which are now known respectively as the Kabul, 
Kurram, and Gomal. It is known that these rivers originate in Afghanistan. Thus, 
the Rigvedic Aryans inhabited not only the present-day northwestern India and 
Pakistan but also a good part of Afghanistan. 

Further, as shown earlier (p. 65), the combined evidence of archaeology, 
radiocarbon-dating, hydrology and literature shows that the Rigveda is to be dated 
prior to 2000 bc, and, indeed, the third millennium bc. Thus, both spatial and tem- 
poral factors do point to a Vedic Harappan equation (see Figure 2.1). Can all this 
compelling evidence be brushed aside as mere coincidence? 

Please think. 

Figure 2. 1 Map showing a correlation between the Rigvedic area and the spread of 
Harappan civilization, before 2000 bc. 




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This paper was written in 1999. Since then a lot has been published by me on the 
topic under discussion. I would, therefore, like to draw the reader's attention to at 
least the following: The Sarasvati Flows On: The Continuity of Indian Culture. 
New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2002; "Should One Give up All Ethics for 
Promoting One's Theory?," in East and West, 53: 1—4; December 2003, pp. 285-8 
The Homeland of the Aryans: Evidence of Rigvedic Flora and Fauna. New Delhi: 
Aryan Books International, 2005. 





Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein 

The material, tangible, archaeological record is a most vital "hard data" record for 
establishing knowledge about the ways of life, and identities, of prehistoric 
peoples. It is a record that presents the patterns of prehistoric life in both 
a relative, stratigraphic, chronology, and absolute chronology, through radiomet- 
ric techniques. It helps inform us of that part of human existence before written 
records, some 99 percent of human existence. 

In our earlier discussions of the prehistory of South Asia (Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein 1995, 1999), we have described the "cultural tradition" and 
"paleoethnicity" concepts in reference to the mosaic of peoples living between 
the Indus and Gangetic Valleys in the mid-third millennium bc. Their patterns of 
cultural adaptation and cultural expression describe a more structured 
"Indo-Gangetic Cultural Tradition," characterized by, among other features, an 
economic focus on cattle together with agricultural production. In the following 
pages, we summarize an earlier presentation of more recently available South 
Asian archaeological data, placing it in the context of assessing the eighteenth- 
and nineteenth-century interpretative scholarly paradigms for the study of ancient 
India (Shaffer 1984, 1992, 1993; Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999). These are 
arguments premised on a conflating of language, culture, "race," and population 
movements. Despite a plea by one South Asian scholar to be ". . . hopefully some- 
what free from the ghosts of the past" (Bryant 2001: 14), the legacy of a post- 
Enlightenment western scholarship concerning South Asian prehistory and history 
has been for the arguments to be repeated so often as to become dogma. 

3.1 "The Language of Paradise" 

Sir William "Oriental" Jones delivered a lecture on February 2, 1786 to the Royal 
Asiatic Society of Bengal; it contained his now famous "philologer" paragraph in 
which he proposed a linguistic relationship linking, at some point in the ancient past, 



Sanskrit with Latin, Greek, and other European languages (Jones 1788, as quoted 
in Poliakov 1974: 190 and cited in Franklin 1995: 361; see also Mukherjee 1987). 
European scholars earlier had considered some of this same issue (Poliakov 1974; 
Trautmann 1997, 1999; Bryant 2001), but Jones' status as a legal, philological, and 
historical scholar, as well as a Judge for the East India Company, established a grav- 
ity for this linguistic hypothesis which continues today. Perhaps no other scholarly 
hypothesis of the eighteenth century, outside of the natural sciences, has continued 
to so influence such diverse disciplines as linguistics, history, biology, ethnology, and 
political science. The timing of Jones' lecture is significant in a broader social con- 
text. With the American colonies lost, England was beginning a global expansion of 
colonization and the generally agreed upon era of the modern nation-state had 
begun. Fewer than one-third of the some current 200 modern nation-states are over 
thirty years old, a point worth noting when present day social identities are defined 
with descriptive terminology of the scholarly disciplines of the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries. Academic discourse in philology, ethnology, archaeology, paleon- 
tology, biology, and religion was plumbed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 
to substantiate a sense of self and shared identity in a newly expanded view of the 
known geographic world and in a reassessment of a chronology of human antiquity 
beyond a Biblical interpretation of human origins. Archaeology's "hard evidence," 
discordant with Biblical interpretations of human origins, European knowledge of 
other cultures' self-asserted antiquity, especially that of India, and Jones' hypoth- 
esis of Indo-European language relationships combined to structure European 
scholarship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries toward a reconsideration of 
the characteristics which seemed to unambiguously establish a shared, common 
identity - language, culture, "race." 1 

Certainly by the eighteenth century, language was increasingly manipulated by 
European political elites as a source of social identity and power. As the fledgling 
European industrial revolution expanded, the need for an increasingly literate 
population, and availability of "cheap newsprint," invited an even more intense 
manipulation of language as a source of identity, along with other characteristics 
such as physical appearance, dress, and food (Smith 1986; van den Berge 1987; 
Anderson 1991). Linguistically based European nation-states in the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries emerged from the hodgepodge of languages/cultures/ 
religions essentially by fiat. Less than 3 percent of the population spoke Italian as 
their "mother tongue" when Garibaldi united a group of provinces into what was 
to become Italy (Robbins 2002: 107). 

But what of the language of paradise? How to relate the "language of Adam to 
the pluralism of Babel?" (Olender 1992, 1997). Language's powerful ability to 
establish ordered existence is reflected in the Biblical tale of a ". . . faceless God 
with an unutterable Name, creating the Universe in six days, divulging several 
words in a language that dissipates primeval Chaos" (Olender 1997: 51). Such an 
"original" language, initially considered to be Hebrew, as common source for all 
later languages, is established in biblical chronology. Noah's three sons were the 
accepted progenitors of all humanity, dispersed throughout the world and speaking 



a common language. In Babel, the immediacy and translucency of the Adamic 
language was lost. As Olender notes (1997: 55), the quest of the European nation- 
state to attribute its source of identity to this "original" language established the 
impetus of more than one nationalist ideology. 

Hebrew was the "original" language of the Bible, and, at the time, it was the 
oldest language known until the Rosetta Stone's discovery and decipherment 
yielded even more ancient languages. Hebrew also was the language of the Jews. 
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European scholars who felt compelled 
to accept Biblical "history" in its Hebraic account of human origins may have 
been reluctant, in the light of European anti-Semitism, to accept Hebrew as the 
"original" language of paradise. Jones' linguistic hypothesis linking Sanskrit with 
Latin and Greek, and his further detailed studies of Indian chronology, provided 
the impetus for a disaffection with Genesis, a neat out for the troubled scholars of 
the day. The philological chronologies of Jones' day, and after, helped reconstruct 
an "original" proto-language form, presumed to have been spoken by a specific 
group of people living in a circumscribed area. While India was at first promoted 
as the Indo-European homeland, Indian civilization was later demoted to being 
the end result of an invading Indo- Aryan branch of the Indo-Europeans combined 
with indigenous non-Indo-European peoples (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999; 
Bryant 200 1 : passim). 

3.2 Language, culture, "race" 

A broad review of the scholarly paradigm shifts which eighteenth- and nineteenth- 
century European scholars experienced in dealing with human origins within the 
context of the natural sciences, and, later, social sciences is well beyond the scope 
of this discussion (Stepan 1982; Bowler 1989; Van Riper 1993; Trautmann 1997, 

Epistemological linking of language, culture, "race" in the European scholar- 
ship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a continuation of earlier 
efforts to assess the unity of monogenic descent from Adam described in Biblical 
narrative vis-a-vis European recognition of human physical variation. It was an 
effort to assess a "unity of reason" underlying linguistic diversity (Olender 1997: 
56-7) and it was an effort to assess a chronology recognized in population move- 
ments both in ancient times and in the period of the growth of the modern nation- 
state. The way in which Indo-European studies approached the issue of a 
linguistic dispersal of the Indo-European language group ultimately relied on the 
principle of the segmentary structure of a Mosaic ethnology (Trautmann 1997: 
55-7), in the metaphor of an endless branching tree of patrilineal descent. The 
tree paradigm of European philologists in the nineteenth century also acknowl- 
edges an emphasis, not quite complementary, on the feminine, in its use of the 
"mother tongue" reproducing "daughter" languages. What is important about the 
use of the tree metaphor by linguists is that it asserts a genealogical connected- 
ness among humans speaking a particular language and an endless branching of 



linguistic change establishing a chronology by which to describe the movements 
of specific language speakers in space. For the eighteenth- and nineteenth- 
century philologists, the superiority of a particular language/"race" was revealed 
in the verifiable accomplishments of a culture/"civilization" of great antiquity. 
The goal was to use the reconstructed proto-Indo-European/ Aryan language to 
locate its speakers in a region which, ultimately, was placed outside India and 
assess the migration of peoples/languages away from the nodal area in both west 
and southeasterly directions. This linguistic paradigm is modified but remains a 
basic point of debate in various modern scholarship on South Asian prehistory 
(Renfrew 1987; Mallory 1989, but see Lamberg-Karlovsky 1988, 2002; Shaffer 
1990; Yoffee 1990 for critical reviews) when chronology, area of language origin, 
and migrations (Allchin 1995) are considered. 2 

In the mid-nineteenth century, Max Miiller wrote of the ". . . Aryan' language, 
spoken in Asia by a small tribe, nay, originally by a small family living under one 
and the same roof" (1880, cited in Leach 1990: 234), careful to separate the study 
of language from "ethnology," which was the discipline which could describe 
population movements. 

Muller stresses, "There are Aryan and Semitic languages, [but] it goes against 
all rules of logic to speak, without an expressed or implied qualification, of an 
Aryan race, of Aryan blood, or Aryan skulls" (1880, cited in Leach 1990: 234). 
Less than a century later in Europe, courtesy of language, there were indeed just 
such identifying characteristics in the Nazi Reich. 3 The intellectual atmosphere in 
which correlations of "race" and language from the comparative linguistics side 
occasionally continue "to haunt" Indo-European studies has been recently 
reviewed (Bryant 2001: 17). It is a viewpoint that can overwhelm, at times, the 
discussion of the prehistoric patterns of adaptation, stability, and change revealed 
in the archaeological record of South Asia. 4 Few scholars have addressed these 
issues from a South Asian archaeological perspective based on archaeological 
data gathered over the past century (see Erdosy 1989, 1995a,b; Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein 1999). We now turn to such a consideration. 

3.3 The British archaeologists 

British archaeologists have been the dominant influence in South Asian archaeology 
from the beginning of its inception there, in 1861, through the independence period 
and beyond (until recently). The Archaeological Survey of India was created, organ- 
ized, and staffed by British scholars since the 1860s (for extensive discussions of this 
history, see Chakrabarti 1982; Kennedy 2000; Possehl 1996, 1999a, 2002). However, 
it is important to note that the Archaeological Survey of India has attempted always 
to integrate indigenous scholars into its activities at all administrative and field 
research levels. Harappa was excavated and published on by M. S. Vats (1940); 
research was conducted in Sindh by N. G. Majumdar (1934). Among the most 
important of the British archaeologists are Sir John Marshall, Sir Ernest Mackay, 
Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and Stuart Piggott. Marshall (1931), Mackay (1938), and 



Vats (1940) were responsible, with others, for the excavation of many, critically 
important, prehistoric and early historic South Asian sites including Mohenjo- 
daro and Harappa. Marshall and Mackay interpreted and presented to the aca- 
demic world South Asia's Bronze Age Harappan (Indus) civilization as a result of 
their research. Their interpretation of this Bronze Age civilization was different 
than expected. By the 1930s, enough ancient documents had been translated to 
reveal an ancient Old World much like that of twentieth-century Europe, with 
urban elites engaged in trade and promoting warfare for their own aggrandize- 
ment and profit from earliest historic times to the present. Note that for Marshall 
and Mackay, their contemporary period had just witnessed the First World War, 
the "war to end all wars." In anticipating revelations about a prehistoric world, 
there was no reason to suspect that, in this case, it would be much different 
from the early and later historical periods known for the Old World. However, 
based on their research, Marshall and Mackay described a Bronze Age, South 
Asian culture/civilization that had urban centers, writing, public, but not monu- 
mental, architecture, with no direct evidence for warfare, an essentially homoge- 
neous and sophisticated craft technology distributed over a vast geographic area, 
and one, no less, without elite status burials of the kind found in Sumeria or 
Egypt. The geographic area encompassed by this Harappan (Indus) culture was 
understood to be much larger than that of either Sumeria or Egypt. Marshall and 
Mackay's interpretation of the Harappan data was that it was a complex civiliza- 
tion of priests, literati, traders in contact with western areas, craftsmen, sailors, 
successful agriculturalists and pastoralists and, perhaps, philosophers - the 
"priest-king" figurine of Mohenjo-daro. Additionally, they maintained that the 
Harappan culture was too early in date to be connected to the Vedic tradition of 
an invasion by Aryans. In general, their interpretation of Harappan culture was 
similar to that of Greek scholars such as Megasthenes (Greek ambassador to India 
c.302-291 bc) who wrote Indika, a work that would influence Western scholarly 
perspectives of South Asia until about the sixteenth century ad. (Interestingly this 
interpretation of the Harappan culture as a peacefully integrated, sophisticated, 
complex culture is very similar to that proposed until recently by New World 
archaeologists to describe aspects of Maya civilization.) 

Since India's and Pakistan's independence, South Asian archaeology was 
significantly influenced by Sir Mortimer Wheeler (born 1890, died 1976) and, to 
a lesser degree, by the late Stuart Piggott. Wheeler secured a reputation as one of 
the most prominent archaeologists in the English speaking world. He had served 
in the First World War and was on active duty in north Africa during the Second 
World War when he received the order to proceed to India and reorganize the 
Archaeological Survey of India. His responsibility was to train the next genera- 
tion of Indian archaeologists who would work in the post-independence era 
(Wheeler 1956; Clark 1979). Wheeler did accomplish his task of reorganizing the 
Survey and he embarked on an ambitious program of stratigraphic excavations at 
various sites, with the goals of training his staff in the modern, for the day, archae- 
ological field techniques and gaining critical new data about ancient cultures to 



help in building an informed chronology of prehistoric and ancient South Asia. Very 
quickly, he proposed a very different interpretation of what the archaeological 
record revealed about Harappan culture (Wheeler 1956: 192) versus the then pre- 
vailing descriptions of Marshall andMackay (Childe 1934, 1953). Rather than mere 
enclosing walls for sites, Wheeler envisioned the citadels present in other Old World 
ancient civilizations; Harappan culture's homogenous material remains marked 
strong bureaucratic centralization and its widespread geographical distribution, as 
recorded in its many sites, was the result of a "militaristic imperialism" (Wheeler 
1956: 192), establishing a pattern known for other Old World civilizations. It was a 
pattern of conflict for resources and hegemony comparable to that Wheeler and 
Piggott had each experienced in their respective war service. Theirs was a defining 
stamp of description widely accepted at all public levels in Europe and South Asia, 
via the writings of V Gordon Childe (1953) and one which persists today 
(e.g. Mallory 1989; but see Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999). 

If Jones' had his "philologer paragraph," Wheeler had his "Aryan paragraphs" 
which directed archaeological, historical, linguistic, and biological interpretations 
within South Asian studies for over a half century. Wheeler (1968, 3rd edition) 
proposed the following: 

It is, simply, this. Sometime during the second millennium B.C. - the 
middle of the millennium has been suggested, without serious support - 
Aryan-speaking peoples invaded the Land of Seven Rivers, the Punjab 
and its neighboring region. It has long been accepted that the tradition of 
this invasion is reflected in the older hymns of the Rigveda, the composi- 
tion of which is attributed to the second half of the millennium. In the 
Rigveda, the invasion constantly assumes the form of an onslaught upon 
walled cities of the aborigines. For these cities, the term used is pur, 
meaning a "rampart," "fort," "stronghold." One is called "broad" (prithvi) 
and "wide" (urvi). Sometimes strongholds are referred to metaphorically as 
"of metal" (dyasi). "Autumnal" (saradi) forts are also named: "this may 
refer to the forts in that season being occupied against the Aryan attacks or 
against inundations caused by overflowing rivers." Forts "with a hundred 
walls" (satabhuji) are mentioned. The citadel may be of stone (asmanmayi): 
alternatively, the use of mud-bricks is perhaps alluded to by the epithet ama 
(raw, unbaked); Indra, the Aryan war-god is purandara, "fort-destroyer." 
He shatters "ninety forts" for his Aryan protege, Divodasa. The same forts 
are doubtless referred to where in other hymns he demolishes variously 
ninety-nine and a hundred "ancient castles" of the aboriginal leader 
Sambara. In brief, he renders "forts as age consumes garment." 

If we reject the identification of the fortified citadels of the Harappans 
with those which the Aryans destroyed, we have to assume that, in the 
short interval which can, at the most, have intervened between the end 
of the Indus civilization and the first Aryan invasions, an unidentified 
but formidable civilization arose in the same region and presented an 



extensive fortified front to the invaders. It seems better, as the evidence 
stands, to accept the identification and to suppose that the Harappans of 
the Indus valley in their decadence, in or about the seventeenth century 
bc, fell before the advancing Aryans in such fashion as the Vedic hymns 
proclaim: Aryans who nevertheless, like other rude conquerors of a later 
date, were not too proud to learn a little from the conquered . . . 

(1968: 131-2) 

Wheeler definitely links the "end" of Harappan culture with a human, physi- 
cal, invasion correlated with linguistic change associated with Aryans in South 
Asia and Europe. He, and Piggott, attributed to the Harappan culture a conserva- 
tive, centralized, state organization dominated by priest-kings, which had become 
stagnant. It was only after the 'Aryan invasions" that the indigenous population 
was reinvigorated with Aryan warriors and Aryan intellect and a new language 
that was fated to decline through interaction with and contamination by the lan- 
guage of the indigenous population. This authoritative description has become the 
received wisdom guiding much of the discussion about the Pre- and Early 
Historic periods of South Asia until the period of the 1980s. What new data 
challenged this authoritative description? 

3.4 Recent archaeological developments 

Archaeologists and non-archaeologists (Renfrew 1987; Mallory 1989; Ratnagar 
1991; Mallory and Mair 2000), linguists (Witzel 1999), historians (Robb 2002), 
and biologists (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994) have used those portions of the South 
Asian archaeological record which seemed to most support their goals of deter- 
mining a well-defined nodal area of proto-Indo-European culture at a time suffi- 
cient to allow for the development of later cognate languages linked to 
genealogically defined human populations. It is singularly refreshing, against this 
dogmatic pursuit of what may be an unobtainable goal, to know there are South 
Asian scholars who ". . . do not believe that the available data are sufficient to 
establish anything very conclusive about an Indo-European homeland, culture, or 
people" (Bryant 2001: 11; see also Kennedy 2000). We do acknowledge that cog- 
nate languages exist over a vast area from India to Europe, but see little attention 
directed to a consideration of language convergence as well as divergence for 
assessing prehistoric population interaction (see Lamberg-Karlovsky 2002; 
Sherratt and Sherratt 1988: 585). We note too Ehret's cautionary proviso of the rel- 
ative ease of language shift among "small-scale" social groups (Ehret 1988: 569). 5 
The existing interpretative discussions postulating large-scale human "invasions" 
(Renfrew 1987; Allchin 1995) simply do not correlate with the physical, archaeo- 
logical, or paleoanthropological, data (Kennedy 2000). No matter how prevalent 
some population intrusions have been within the South Asian context since the 
time of Alexander the Great, the archaeological data currently available do not 
support a parallel scenario being drawn for the prehistoric context. 



Within the context of South Asian archaeology, the available material record 
is the initial avenue for reconstructing prehistoric patterns of immediate envi- 
ronmental adaptation and cultural organization of specific groups. That same 
record assists in determining the kind and degree of interactions among groups 
within defined geographic areas over a period of time. Potsherds are a humble 
beginning; pots in situ describe more; chipped stone tools and polished stone 
tools and metals reveal specific craft techniques and possible areas of resource 
availability; flora and fauna remains describe still more; human remains are a 
definite confirmation of, at least, some aspects of human physical variation; the 
ways in which human remains were dealt with by prehistoric populations 
describe something of cultural beliefs concerning cultural identity both in life 
and death, and a relative stratigraphic chronology of the material record is eval- 
uated against the calendric chronology of carbon- 14 dating. There are never 
enough prehistoric sites excavated, and excavated well, and there are never 
enough carbon- 14 dates. Still, the efforts by archaeologists working in South 
Asia, especially in the last two decades, have revealed data by which earlier 
interpretative hypotheses of South Asian cultures can be reviewed for their 
strengths and weaknesses (Shaffer 1996). The migration/invasion hypothesis of 
people entering South Asia from the West in a prehistoric period is one to be 
assessed against newer archaeological data. 

3.5 Mehrgarh: the origins of food production 

The excavations at Mehrgarh (Jansen et al. 1991; Jarrige et al. 1995) near Sibri, 
Pakistan, do demonstrate an indigenous development of agricultural food pro- 
duction by people living there as early as the seventh millennium bc. As a cultural 
occupation, Mehrgarh Period IA dates to the seventh millennium bc period 
(Shaffer 1992); because of the essential cultural complexity in that occupation 
stratum, some scholars posit an even earlier period for the cultural innovation 
there of achieving plant and animal domesticates. Most important was the identi- 
fication at Mehrgarh of wild representatives of domesticable plants and animals, 
indicating their use by groups in the area. Mehrgarh 's seventh millennium bc pop- 
ulation had a plant economy using domesticated wheats and barley, with a high 
percent (90 percent) of naked six-row barley, a variety which occurs only in a 
post-domestication context. Wild sheep, goat, cattle, water buffalo, and gazelle 
were hunted. 

The small size of some goats, a post-domestication characteristic, and inten- 
tional use of immature goats within human burials suggests that goats were being 
herded. By Mehrgarh Period IB, c. 6000-5500 bc, fully domesticated sheep, 
goats, and cattle were the major animals being exploited. In Mehrgarh Period II, 
5500^4500 bc, nearly all the faunal remains indicate domestication. After 
Mehrgarh Period II, some 60 percent of the animals consumed were domesticated 
cattle. This emphasis on domesticated cattle, though variable, persisted into the 
second millennium bc, a rare pattern in the ancient Old World where domesticated 



sheep/goats become the most exploited fauna. Moreover, during the Harappan 
period, after 2500 bc, groups of specialized cattle pastoralists have been identi- 
fied in the prehistoric record (Rissman and Chitalwala 1990). More recently, and 
importantly, cattle mtDNA studies (Loftus et al. 1994; Wuethrich 1994; Bradley 
et al. 1996) indicate that South Asia is a primary world area where at least one 
species of cattle, Bos indicus, was domesticated. 

Other important aspects of the Mehrgarh occupation sequence indicate that 
humans were emphasizing surplus resource production, establishing a precocious 
and varied craft industry and making use of early "public" architectural units. The 
crucial point is that the site of Mehrgarh establishes food production technology 
as an indigenous South Asian, Indus Valley cultural phenomenon. No intruding/ 
invasive/migrating population coming into the area can be referred to as the 
source of such cultural innovation, as suggested by Renfrew (1987). The current 
data (Shaffer 1992) delineates a South Asian prehistoric cultural complexity and 
urbanization process that develops over a long chronology based on indigenous, 
but not isolated, cultural innovations. The available archaeological record does not 
support the explanatory paradigm of a culturally superior, intrusive/invasive Indo- 
Aryan people as being responsible for the cultural accomplishments documented 
archaeologically for prehistoric South Asia. 

Archaeology documents a great deal of cultural development in South Asia 
between 6000 and 1000 bc, and certain other data are noteworthy. During the 
early third millennium bc, a variety of similar but distinctive cultural groups 
coexisted in the Indus Valley, several of which continued into the second millen- 
nium bc. During the mid-third millennium bc, one, or more, of these groups 
developed rather quickly into the Harappan culture (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 
1989, 1995, 1999; Possehl 1990), Marshall's Indus Valley civilization, one which 
became widespread for several reasons. Mughal (1970, 1973) has strongly argued 
that the Kot Dijian cultural group of this area was the direct predecessor to the 
Indus Valley civilization, based on stratigraphy and material artifact analysis. At 
some sites, Kot Dijian culture is chronologically earlier than the Indus 
Valley/Harappan culture sites; other Kot Dijian sites are contemporary with those 
of the Indus Valley/Harappan culture, while other Kot Dijian sites are later than 
those of the Indus Valley/Harappan culture (Allchin 1984; Possehl 1984; Shaffer 
and Lichtenstein 1989; Shaffer 1992). Lacking fullest data, there is, nonetheless, 
a growing consensus that Harappan culture is the result of indigenous cultural 
developments, with no "Mesopotamian" people or diffusions of Western inventions, 
by whatever means, needed to explain it. 

Earlier, Harappan culture was described as the single, monumental social entity 
in the Indus Valley area. However, we now know that there were several contem- 
poraneous cultural groups occupying the same and immediately adjacent geo- 
graphic areas. These include the cultural groups of the Kot Dijian, Amrian, 
Hakran, and final Mehrgarh occupations, to note but a few (Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999; Shaffer 1992). Culturally, the Harappan was 
certainly the most impressive of these, but it was not alone; rather, it was part of 



a greater cultural mosaic in this geographic area which we are just now beginning 
to appreciate (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999). 

Harappan culture groups, and their culturally similar but distinct neighbors, 
were aware of and interacted with a range of other social groups living in a greater 
hinterland (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995; Shaffer 1993). These additional 
social groups were food foragers, pastoralists and agriculturalists, some of whom 
practiced small-scale craft industries. These diverse other groups were situated 
geographically from Baluchistan to the Yamuna-Ganges divide, and from Swat 
and Kashmir to the central Deccan Plateau. Direct and indirect trade though inter- 
mediary groups occurred. There is, for instance, an Harappan site located on the 
Oxus River, while Kot Dijian and Hakran sites are found in Swat and a Kot Dijian 
presence is recorded for Kashmir (Shaffer 1992). Harappans and their immediate 
neighbors had indirect and direct access to a large and ecologically varied 
resource-rich, eastern hinterland an area moreover which was underpopulated 
compared to the Indus Valley proper, a circumstance unusual in the Bronze-Iron 
Age ancient Old World. 

The "identity" of the encompassing Indus Valley cultural mosaic has been 
much scrutinized by interested scholars (Chakrabarti 1990; Ratnagar 1991; Lai 
1997; Possehl 2002), with a focus on the kinds of relationships comprising it, (the 
political, economic, and religious organizational relationships), as well as the 
nature and degree of interactions between the groups of the Indus Valley cultural 
mosaic and groups located elsewhere. Space precludes full discussion here of 
these details. More vital is the apparent cultural mosaic response to ecological 
changes affecting the greater Indus Valley area beginning in the mid-third 
millennium bc and intensifying during the second through first millennium bc. 

South Asian paleoenvironmental data are minimal compared to other regions, 
but important details emerge. Pollen cores from Rajasthan (Singh 1971; Singh 
et al, 1974; Bryson and Swain 1981; Bhatia and Singh 1988; Singh et al. 1990; 
Deotare and Kajale 1996) seem to indicate that by the mid-third milennium bc, 
climatic conditions of the Indus Valley area became increasingly arid. Data from 
the Deccan region (Dhavalikar 1988) also suggests a similar circumstance there 
by the end of the second millennium bc (for alternative views about Rajasthan, 
see Misra 1984; Possehl 1997a,b, 1999b, 2002). Additionally, and more directly 
devastating for the Indus Valley region, in the early second millennium bc, there 
was the capture of the Ghaggar-Hakra (or Saraswati) river system (then a focal 
point of human occupation) by adjacent rivers, with subsequent diversion of these 
waters eastwards (Shaffer 1981, 1982, 1986, 1993; Mughal 1990, 1997; Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein 1995, 1999). At the same time, there was increasing tectonic activ- 
ity in Sindh and elsewhere. Combined these geological changes meant major 
changes in the hydrology patterns of the region (Flam 1981, 1993). These natural 
geologic processes had significant consequences for the food producing cultural 
groups throughout the greater Indus Valley area. Archaeological surveys have 
documented a cultural response to these environmental changes creating a "crisis" 
circumstance and we note them here. 



3.6 Archaeological considerations 

The archaeological database is never complete. Newer archaeological data with 
corresponding radiometric dates can corroborate earlier anthropological interpre- 
tations of a specific group's cultural patterns at any time and over time and also 
perhaps alter those earlier interpretations of a group's way of life. More specifi- 
cally, radiometric dating techniques for the periods considered in this chapter 
essentially refer to carbon- 14 dating, which can provide a range of possible dates, 
with varying degrees of accuracy for specific dates. With the confidence of rely- 
ing on the testing of hundreds of carbon samples, it is possible to describe the 
mature Harappan culture as dating to between 2600 and 1900 bc. Nonetheless, it 
is not as easy to state, within that chronological range, precisely when, and for 
how long, each of the eighty-three recorded mature Harappan habitation sites in 
Cholistan existed (Mughal 1997). For the 2600-1900 bc period, the Cholistan 
archaeological survey data indicate that some human habitation sites were aban- 
doned, others persisted and other sites were newly created throughout that region. 
The following evaluation of the Harappan site survey data is presented with such 
considerations in mind. 

From a broader theoretical perspective, we note that, in describing other world 
regions, archaeologists generally have retreated from the use of human 
migration/invasion as a specified cause of cultural innovations in a different area, 
recognizing the difficulty in distinguishing such a causal factor from "diffusion" 
(Clark 1966; Adams et al. 1978; Trigger 1989). Successful archaeological documen- 
tation of human migration (Rouse 1986) nearly always has been correlated, to some 
degree, with verifiable historical population movements (e.g. Polynesians, Inuit, 
Japanese, Tainos, Europeans to North America). Cultural anthropology does docu- 
ment the ease of cultural borrowing, but it is useful to recall that humans are selec- 
tive in their borrowing patterns. Objects, ideas, technologies, language can be used 
by a borrowing group and, in the absence of historical records, it is difficult to deter- 
mine with certainly whether a changed distribution pattern of cultural traits/styles in 
a given area reflects physical population movement or stimulus diffusion. Where 
archaeology has been able to convincingly document human physical movement is 
with regionally based human site distribution patterns, which demonstrate the aban- 
donment of sites and/or establishment of new sites in a given region. For the greater 
Indus Valley area, those habitation site survey data have been available only recently. 

3. 6.1 The region al data 

Beginning in the late third millennium bc and continuing throughout the second 
millennium bc, many, but not all, Indus Valley settlements, including urban cen- 
ters, were abandoned as a cultural response to the environmental "crisis" 
described earlier. 

Other areas, such as Baluchistan, were also affected by the same environmental 
changes affecting the Indus Valley, but the relative and absolute cultural chronologies 



of the western fringe areas are not known well enough to incorporate that 
information into this discussion. Even within the Indus Valley, the cultural 
response of abandoning habitation sites varied. In Cholistan, along the Ghaggar- 
Hakra River, it was a dramatic response of abandonment. Yet all areas were 
affected in the Indus Valley. While the quality of the survey data is regionally vari- 
able, it is sufficient to show a gradual and significant population shift from the 
Indus Valley eastward into the eastern Punjab and Gujarat, beginning in the late 
third millennium bc and continuing throughout the second millennium bc. This is 
a significant human population movement which parallels that attributed to the 
mid-second millennium bc and described within the Vedic oral tradition. 6 The 
data gained by these archaeological surveys are presented next. 


Mughal's 1974-77 (1990, 1997) archaeological surveys of this area, together with 
archaeological surveys in the eastern Punjab (see later), indicate considerable 
population settlement dynamics in this region from the third through second mil- 
lennium bc. Knowledge of a diagnostic Hakra cultural pattern is limited. It is 
described essentially on the basis of Mughal's survey data of pottery samples and 
a few excavations. Mughal (1990, 1997) considers the Hakra culture to be earlier 
than Kot Dijian, now designated as Early Harappan by Mughal and others, and 
earlier than the Harappan. That may be correct. It is also quite likely that some 
Hakran settlements, like related Kot Dijian ones, persisted and were contemporary 
with, or even later than, the Harappan (Shaffer 1992). Only more archaeological 
fieldwork excavations and radiometric dates may resolve these issues. It should 
be noted that Mughal's culturally defined Hakra and Early Harappan groups cor- 
respond to the "Early Harappan" as applied by researchers to groups in other 
nearby regions. And from the survey data, only habitation sites are considered 
here. As we note, "Industrial sites without associated habitation areas, camp sites 
and cemeteries are excluded, since they do not reflect long-term human daily 
activity usage (habitation) or, in the case of camp sites, only temporary use" 
(Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999); see Figure 3.1. 

The published report for the site survey data of Cholistan includes site sizes, 
a detail of information not now available for other known sites in different regions. 
Hakra habitation sites, and Early Harappan habitation sites, in total area occupied, 
are essentially the same. Together, the Hakra and Early Harappan habitation site 
area occupied is similar to that of the Harappan. In striking contrast, the habita- 
tion area of Late Harappan sites in Cholistan declines by 48 percent. By the late 
second through early first millennium bc period (i.e. Painted Gray Ware cultural 
groups/early Iron Age), another habitation area decline of 83 percent occurs. By 
the early Iron Age, in other words, the habitation area of sites is only 8 percent of 
the habitation area of sites occupied during the Harappan cultural period. It is 
evident, based upon habitation area size changes, that a major population decline 
in this region was happening by the beginning of the second millennium bc. 



Number of settlements and habitation area (ha.) per culture/period 






Settlements Area 

Figure 3. 1 Cholistan. 

■ Painted Gray Ware 14 (36.3) 
E2 Late Harappan 28 (216.23) 

■ Harappan 83 (447.1) 

H Early Harappan 32 (201 .01) 
□ Hakra 47 (284.7) 

This site habitation history is outlined in Figure 3.2 and supports the interpretation 
just stated, a significant, major, population decline was evidenced in the Cholistan 
region by the beginning of the second millennium bc. Together, the number of 
Early Harappan and Hakran sites occupied equals the number of Harappan sites 
occupied (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999). If Mughal's chronology is correct, with 
Hakra predating the Early Harappan, then 40 percent of known sites are described 
as changed in habitation status. That is, they either were abandoned or were 
inhabited for the first time between the Hakran and Early Harappan cultural 
developments. Some 57 percent of the sites changed their habitation status 
between the Early Harappan and Harappan. However one evaluates Mughal's 
description of cultural development, habitation changes occur during the Late 
Harappan, with the total number of settlements declining by 66 percent. Of these, 
54 percent exhibit a change in their occupation status, with 96 percent of them 
being newly established settlements. By the first millennium bc, that is, Painted 
Gray Ware culture, the total number of habitation settlements declines by another 
50 percent, or, in comparison with Harappan, the total number of habitation sites 
declines by 83 percent. Significantly, all these new habitation settlements were in 
the dry Ghaggar-Hakra River channel. Between the Harappan and Late Harappan 
periods, the Cholistan region was being abandoned as the cultural response to the 
"crisis" of the river changes described earlier. 

Given the rarity of Painted Gray Ware sites in the Indus Valley proper, and their 
exclusive location in a dry river channel, these first millennium bc settlements 
may represent a very small backward population shift. Only five small Early 
Historic period habitation settlements were recorded and they were new settle- 
ments. This region was significantly reoccupied during the Medieval period. 
Thus, it is clear that this region was extensively, but not completely, abandoned 
during the second millennium bc. 



Early Late Painted 

Hakra H arappan Hara PP an Harappan Gray Ware 

Number of occupations: 47 

Percent change in 
occupational status: 



= Site occupied 


= Site yet to be occupied 


= Site abandoned 


= Occupation 

Sites abandoned or 


" yet to be occupied 

Figure 3.2 Cholistan. 

Eastern Punjab 

The eastern Punjab designation used here incorporates the modern Indian states 
of the Punjab, northern Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi Territory, and the western dis- 
tricts of Uttar Pradesh. The most detailed published accounts of archaeological 
research (Joshi et al. 1984) organize the data into three cultural/chronological cat- 
egories: Early Harappan, Harappan, and Late Harappan. As used to interpret the 
site survey data, the authors' category of Early Harappan corresponds to Mughal's 
Hakra and Early Harappan (previously Kot Dijian) cultures and to what has been 
referred to as Sothi and early Siswal in the Indian literature. Also, with regard to 
the designation of cultural categories, some, but not all, of the "Early Harappan" 
occupations of the eastern Punjab were contemporary with the Harappan and 
with, perhaps, even the Late Harappan occupation sites found throughout the 


Harappan culture area. It is important again to note that these archaeological 
surveys essentially recorded only habitation sites. 

The number of designated Early Harappan and Harappan occupations in the 
eastern Punjab are almost the same, with only 24 percent of the potentially inhab- 
itable settlements changing their occupation status (Figure 3.3). However, the set- 
tlement dynamics of the Harappan and Late Harappan are significantly different. 
The number of occupied settlements increases by 304 percent, of which 82.5 per- 
cent are newly occupied settlements, whereas 80 percent of habitation settlements 
change their occupation status. Despite limitations of archaeological data, with 
the abandonment of habitation sites recorded for the Cholistan region and the 
magnitude of increase of new occupied settlements in the eastern Punjab, a sig- 
nificant population influx into the eastern Punjab occurred between the Harappan 
and Late Harappan cultural periods (see also Possehl 1997a,b, 2002; Shaffer and 
Lichtenstein 1999). 

Central Haryana 

The central Haryana data (Bhan 1975, and pers. comm.; Bhan and Shaffer 1978; 
Shaffer 1981, 1986; Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999) are incorporated 



= Site occupied 


= Site yet to be occupied 


= Site abandoned 


= Occupation 

Sites abandoned or 


" yet to be occupied 

Early Late 

Harappan Hara PP an Harappan 

Number of occupations: 

Percent change in 
occupational status: 

Figure 3.3 Eastern Punjab. 



within those for the eastern Punjab presented earlier. However, this central Haryana 
data includes the Painted Gray Ware and Early Historic culture complexes 
(Figure 3.4). It is considered separately here now to focus on the occupation 
settlement changes in this area. The number of Early Harappan and Harappan 
habitation settlements are essentially the same, with only 1 percent of the sites 
changing habitation status. Between the Harappan and Late Harappan, however, 
there is a 98 percent increase in the number of habitation sites, with 63 percent 
changing their occupation status. Although there is a 15 percent decline in 
the number of sites between the Late Harappan and Painted Gray culture periods, 
there is still considerable settlement mobility, since 82 percent of sites change 
occupation status. The Early Historic culture period yields another 20 percent 
decline in the number of occupied sites, with 41 percent changing their occupa- 
tion status. However, no new settlements are established. Although a degree of 

Early Late Painted Early 

Harappan Hara PP an Harappan Gray Ware Historic 

/1 \ 




= Site occupied 


= Site yet to be occupied 


= Site abandoned 


= Occupation 


Sites abandoned or 


" yet to be occupied 


Number of occupations: 






Percent change in 

occupational status: 





Figure 3.4 Central Haryana. 



settlement mobility continues into the Early Historic context, there was more 
cultural occupation site stability by that time, perhaps reflecting the emergence 
of the first South Asian states in the Ganga Valley. 


Presently, the most comprehensive archaeological survey data have been compiled 
by Flam (1981, 1993, 1999; see also Possehl 1999b). However, these data focus 
on the Early-to-Mature Harappan cultural relationships. The Late Harappan 
cultural period may be underrepresented in the survey data. Nonetheless, the set- 
tlement pattern dynamics (Figure 3.5) are very similar to those in Cholistan. The 
number of Early Harappan and Harappan habitation sites occupied are compar- 
able in number, with 68 percent changing occupation status. In the Late Harappan, 
there is an 89 percent decline in the number of habitation settlements, with 
65 percent changing their occupation status and no new sites are established. Like 
Cholistan, the Sindh region reveals a significant population decline, probably for 
similar geological and ecological reasons. 


After the publication of the archaeological survey data used here (Joshi et al. 1984), 
excavations have identified a few Early Harappan occupations. Still, with the 

C ") = Site occupied 

| = Site yet to be occupied 
/ \ = Site abandoned 

/ = Occupation 

/ _ Sites abandoned or 
/ yet to be occupied 

Early Late 

Harappan Hara PP an Harappan 

Number of occupations: 

Percent change in 
occupational status: 


Figure 3.5 Sindh. 



intensity of the surveys conducted, it is reasonable to conclude that Early 
Harappan settlements in this region are rare. Available survey data (Figure 3.6) 
indicate a significant population shift during the Harappan period, with almost 
46 percent of the total inhabited settlements being established. Between the 
Harappan and Late Harappan culture periods, 96 percent of the settlements 
change occupation status, with 93 percent being new settlements. In Gujarat then, 
as in the eastern Punjab, there was a considerable settlement status change. 


It should be noted that archaeological excavations at Bhagwanpura (Joshi 1993), 
and at a few other sites, have defined a stratigraphic chronology linking the Late 
Harappan and Painted Gray Ware culture periods. No chronological gap separates 
these culture periods (Shaffer 1993; Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1995, 1999), but the 
precise nature of the cultural relationships indicated by the data remains to be 
determined in future archaeological excavations. The Painted Gray Ware complex 
(Tripathi 1976; Roy 1983; Gaur 1994) is an Early Iron Age culture and a direct 
predecessor to the historic Northern Black Polished Ware culture of the Early 
Historic period. Given the meticulous archaeological efforts to identify culture 
patterns for the geographic areas described, and with the relative and radiometric 
chronologies established for the archaeological record, it seems that there is no 
"Vedic night" (Fairservis 1975) separating the prehistoric/protohistoric from the 
early historic periods of South Asian culture history. Rather, these data reinforce 
what the site of Mehrgarh so clearly establishes, an indigenous cultural continuity 
in South Asia of several millennia. 



= Site occupied 


= Site yet to be occupied 


= Site abandoned 


= Occupation 


_ Sites abandoned or 
yet to be occupied 

Harappan H arappan 

Number of occupations: 

Percent change in 
occupational status: 

Figure 3.6 Gujarat. 



3.7 Conclusions 

The modern archaeological record for South Asia indicates a history of significant 
cultural continuity; an intrepretation at variance with earlier eighteenth through 
twentieth-century scholarly views of South Asian cultural discontinuity and South 
Asian cultural dependence on Western culture influences (but see Allchin and 
Allchin 1982; Allchin 1995). We have already noted that the scholarly paradigm 
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in conflating language, culture, race, 
and population movements has continued, with historical linguistic scholars still 
assiduously attempting to reconstruct a Proto-Indo-European language and 
attempting to link that language to a specific "homeland," in order to define pop- 
ulation migration away from that seminal geographic base (but see Poliakov 
1974). Suggestions for such a Proto-Indo-European homeland range from Siberia 
to more recent efforts tracing the "homeland" to Anatolia (Renfrew 1987) and the 
Ukraine (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1985a,b; Gimbutas 1985; Mallory 1989; 
Allchin 1995), and these efforts now incorporate human genetic studies (Cavalli- 
Sforza et al. 1994) to verify the linguistic chronologies. 7 The current archaeolog- 
ical and paleoanthropological data simply do not support these centuries old 
interpretative paradigms suggesting Western, intrusive, cultural influence as 
responsible for the supposed major discontinuities in the South Asian cultural 
prehistoric record (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999; Kennedy 2000; Lamberg- 
Karlovsky 2002). The image of Indo-Aryans as nomadic, conquering warriors, 
driving chariots, may have been a vision that Europeans had, and continue to 
have, of their own assumed "noble" past. If Indo-Aryans ever existed, and we do 
dispute their existence as identified in the scholarly literature to date, they are 
much more likely to have been "... impoverished cowboys in ponderous ox-carts 
seeking richer pasture . . ." (Kohl 2002: 78). It is currently possible to discern cul- 
tural continuities linking specific prehistoric social entities in South Asia into one 
cultural tradition (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999; Shaffer 1992, 
1993). This is not to propose social isolation nor deny any outside cultural influ- 
ence. Outside cultural influences did affect South Asian cultural development in 
later, especially historic, periods, but an identifiable cultural tradition has contin- 
ued, an Indo-Gangetic Cultural Tradition (Shaffer 1993; Shaffer and Lichtenstein 
1995, 1999) linking social entities over a time period from the development of 
food production in the seventh millennium bc to the present. 

The archaeological record and ancient oral and literate traditions of South Asia 
are now converging with significant implications for South Asian cultural history. 
Some scholars suggest there is nothing in the "literature" firmly locating Indo- 
Aryans, the generally perceived founders of modern South Asian cultural 
tradition(s) outside of South Asia (see Erdosy 1988, 1989, 1995a,b), and the 
archaeological record is now confirming this (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999). 
Within the chronology of the archaeological data for South Asia describing cul- 
tural continuity (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1989, 1995, 1999; Shaffer 1992, 1993), 
however, a significant indigenous discontinuity occurs, but it is one correlated to 



significant geological and environmental changes in the prehistoric period. This 
indigenous discontinuity was a regional population shift from the Indus Valley 
area to locations east, that is, Gangetic Valley, and to the southeast, that is, Gujarat 
and beyond. Such an indigenous population movement can be recorded in the 
ancient oral Vedic traditions as perhaps "the" migration so focused upon in the 
linguistic reconstructions of a prehistoric chronology for South Asia. 8 As archae- 
ological data accumulate which refute earlier interpretations of South Asian cul- 
tural prehistory as due to Western influences, it is surprising to see the same 
scholarly paradigm used for describing another geographic area's culture history. 
The example in mind is of Mallory and Mair's (2000) interpretation of the Tarim 
mummies as an Indo-Aryan, Western, intrusion, despite the fact that the burials 
correspond to the pattern of Pazyryk burials to the northeast (Polosmak and 
Molohdin 2000 - there are other relevant articles in this journal issue). We 
reemphasize our earlier views, namely that scholars engaged in South Asian stud- 
ies must describe emerging South Asia data objectively rather than perpetuate 
interpretations, now more than two centuries old, without regard to the data 
archaeologists have worked so hard to reveal (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1999). 9 


The concept of "race" in its biological deterministic sense has been a negatively powerful, 
at times horrific, tool for asserting immutable identities of specific human groups. Such 
"race" identities, in their continued common use are measured on primarily visible 
human physical differences. Beyond the mere correlation of human physical, visible, 
variations with specific group identities, the concept of "race" implies a ranking, with 
perceived visible identities ranged on a gradual ascending scale. In the eighteenth and 
early nineteenth centuries, European ethnological discussion had not turned fully to a use 
of "race" in a biological deterministic sense of causality. Instead, European philological 
studies stressed commonality of group identity achieved through shared language, with 
"race" used to reinforce the notion of group identity in a way that is now done with the 
term ethnicity (e.g. Trautmann 1997; and see Shanklin 1994; Shipman 1994). 
In the European scholarship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a focus on 
recognizing Indo-European connections, a coupling of language and "race" asserted an 
inclusionary geneological kinship for diverse populations. However, against the back- 
drop of European world conquest and colonial rule of the day, as nineteenth-century 
European scholars addressed issues of species variation and natural selection, courtesy 
of the biological sciences, the "concept" of race did acquire more biological determin- 
istic qualities. In his very excellent discussion of the British Sanskrit scholars, and other 
philological scholars of the period, Trautmann (1997, 1999) notes that the linked lan- 
guage/ "race" identity of inclusionary status shared by certain populations was replaced 
by a bolder imperative of exclusionary status, identified by visible human physical dif- 
ferences. Aryan by complexion, versus Aryan by language, was to suggest the true 
"white man's burden" of nation-building within imperial rule. 

For the British Sanskritists, to handle the competing identity claims of "language," 
with its inclusionary notion of commonality shared by Europeans and Indians of the 
subcontinent, and of "complexion," with its more deterministic, exclusionary view of 
distinct identities for these groups, the scholarly synthesis became what Trautmann 
describes as the ". . . racial theory of Indian civilization. This is the theory that Indian 
civilization was formed by a big bang, caused by the conquest of light-skinned, Aryan, 



civilized invaders over dark-skinned savage aboriginal Indians, and the formation of the 
caste system which bound the two in a single society, at once mixed and segregated" 
(1 999: 287). Trautmann notes that in the racial reading of the ancient texts, "... the image 
of the dark-skinned savage is only imposed on the Vedic evidence with a considerable 
amount of text-torturing, both 'substantive' and 'adjectival' in character" (1997: 208). 
His further admonition concerning the flimsy foundation of this "racial" interpretation 
of Indian civilization is succinct; "That the racial theory of Indian civilization has survived 
so long and so well is a miracle of faith. It is high time to get rid of it" (1999: 290; 
cf Leach 1990: passim). 

That the Nazi Reich existed only a few decades ago, about a two-generation time depth, is 
noted by both Olender, "We shall remember the immense importance the Nazi Reich - 
occupying Europe barely 50 years ago - assigned to the ideas of the purity of the Aryan 
language, race and nation. . ." (1997: 55) and Leach, when, in reference to the "myth of 
Aryan invasions," he describes the hold the idea has for his fellow country-men ". . . even 
today, 44 years after the death of Hitler. . ." (1990: 243). If, in Leach's words, it is the 
use of the remembered past that defines "what we are now" (1990: 227), scholarship 
that picks and chooses its preferred histories risks the criticism of elaborating just-so 
stories (cf. Anderson 1991). 

Trautmann's summary remarks on aspects of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century 
South Asian historiography are valuable here also. Having so deftly demonstrated the 
contingent way in which many scholars of this period used the South Asian data to 
establish specific congruences of identity via language, "race," culture, nation, which 
are framed mostly as polar opposites, he calls for a scholarship that is far more plural- 
istic in its perspectives and "... one that stresses continuities with the deeper past in the 
formation of modernity and downplays discontinuities" (1997: 223). As he notes, 
"... the political consequences of the Aryan or Indo-European idea do not reside within 
the idea itself as a kind of hidden virus or all-determining genetic code but vary with 
circumstance and are the creatures of historical conjuncture and human purpose" 
(1997: 228). 

Africa is another immensely important geographic area receiving the intense focus of 
the paleoanthropologist, archaeologist, historian, linguist, and geneticist in an effort to 
describe its prehistory and more recent past. It is noteworthy that group/population iden- 
tities and cultural chronologies described for Africa's prehistory and for the present-day 
(now "ethnic" identity) via history and archaeology are almost as contentious as in the 
case of the South Asian data. Vansina (1995), historian, and Robertshaw (1999), archae- 
ologist, summarize some concerns over epistemological goals, methods, and descriptive 
results in their respective, and each other's, disciplines. The difficulties of relying on 
genetic research to help inform issues of African population history and prehistory are 
reviewed in MacEachern (2000). We note too that the dangers of human conflict 
couched in the framework of present-day ethnic identities are no less substantive and 
horrific than earlier human conflicts defined as "racial" (see de Waal 1994 and 
Maybury-Lewis 1997: 99-107 for a case in point). 

A discussion on present-day language shift in the Hatay province of Turkey offers 
insight into the process of human identity achieved via specific language use, politics 
and religion (Smith 2001: 36-9). Additional discussion of language maintenance and 
change and an assessment of modern linguistics' efforts at language reconstruction are 
found in Dixon (1997). 

Fauna remains are a crucial archaeological data set. It would be useful to have more 
complete faunal data from South Asian Early Historic sites, but it is possible to note that 
the large number of cattle documented in the greater Indus Valley prehistoric sites of the 
third millennium bc possibly diminish in economic emphasis as population groups inhabit 
the Gangetic Plain, Gujarat, and the eastern Punjab in the first millennium bc. An increas- 
ingly agricultural and land tenure-based economy within the constraints of a new physical 



environment may have meant a diminished focus on cattle's economic aspect while, 
nonetheless, cattle's symbolic value was maintained (see Shaffer 1993 for discussion). 
The Gladstone bag of "race science" that meshed with nineteenth-century European 
philological studies to interpret human differences has become, in the twentieth and 
twenty-first centuries, a very large steamer trunk of modern genetic essentialism which, 
with impressive irony, must still resort to the older philological linguistic typologies to 
impose an order on newer genetic data now available (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994). 
Cavalli-Sforza et al. (1994: 80) claim that they give no "racial" meaning to the named 
population classifications derived from their studies using modern analytical concepts 
and methods of human population genetics. Their goal is impressive - a single com- 
pelling narrative detailing bio-historical origins and human relationships derived from 
genetic data. However, a strong claim of authority by the modern science of genetics to 
address fundamental issues of identity and descent, "to tell people who they really are" 
is noticeably similar to earlier "racial histories of man" (Marks 2001: passim; 2002a: 
passim). As Marks (2001: 361) notes, "...irreconcilable tensions..." within genetic 
analysis itself and "... unrealistic assumption about human population histories ..." are 
subsumed in presentation as dichotomous (bifurcating) tree diagrams representing evolu- 
tionary genetic-cum-linguistic descent. One critic notes that, "Dichotomous tree diagrams 
may not be the most appropriate models for describing either the genetic or the linguistic 
histories of large proportions of the world's current and former populations" (Armstrong 
1990: 13). The same critic suggests that "...anastomoses of linguistics stocks call into 
question the application of tree diagrams to linguistic diversification (The same can 
equally be said of genetically defined populations.)" (Armstrong 1990: 14). Focusing on 
human biological history, Marks (2001: 360, 2002a: passim) assesses the difficulties of 
tree construction subsuming an array of complex data. When population isolation and less 
genetic admixture is posited a reticulating evolution is simplified into a bifurcating one. 
Cavalli-Sforza et al. acknowledge the implicit bias in their work: 

The presence of mixed populations in standard tree reconstruction may some- 
times alter the shape of the reconstructed tree. It is therefore good practice to 
try reconstruction with and without populations suspected of admixture, or to 
avoid including them. The full analysis of reticulate evolution remains an 
important task for the future. 

(1994: 59) 

The issues of how social-cultural groups are constructed and constituted through time, 
the role of heredity in establishing self-identity in the biological and social realms, the 
use of genealogies to determine "who we really are" (Marks 2001: 377), all these modern 
genetic studies may address. In constructing its authoritative approach, however, popula- 
tion genetics' value is diminished when it is presented within a framework of archaic 
language and loaded assumptions of human differences (Marks 2001: 370). We note too 
that genetic research, presently, has no claim to any precision of chronometric dating 
comparable to that used by archaeology. The same is true of linguistics. The controversies 
created by the linking of modern population genetics and linguistics, and some of the con- 
troversial uses of modern population genetics in the goal of establishing a single bio- 
history of humankind are considered in Bateman et al. (1990), Shipman (1994), Mirza 
and Dungworth (1995), Pluciennik (1995), Evison (1996), Fix (1996), Clark (1998), 
Sims-Williams (1998), Brown and Pluciennik (2001), MacEachern (2000), and Marks 
(2000a,b, 2001, 2002a,b). It is notable that geneticists working on such a large-scale syn- 
thesis of human prehistory and history pay more attention to correlating their data with 
linguistic rather than archaeological data. While genetics may be considered by some a 
possible "third arbiter" to resolve issues of relationship between archaeological culture 
and language (Lamberg-Karlovsky 2002: 75), for the moment, we are more skeptical. 



The linguistic designation of a category of "Indo-European/ Aryan" languages is not the 
question here. However, the historical, and prevailing, use of the language designation is the 
issue. For two centuries, scholars concentrating on the South Asian data have described an 
Indo-European/ Aryan migration/invasion into South Asia to explain the formation of Indian 
civilization. The conflating of language, people/culture, "race" to maintain the "myth of the 
Aryan invasion" continues, perhaps, as Leach (1990: 237) so cogently notes, due to the aca- 
demic prestige at stake. The distinguished scholar Colin Renfrew (1987) opts to distort the 
archaeological record rather than to challenge it. Failing to identify archaeological evidence 
for such a migration in the European post-Neolithic periods, Renfrew argues instead for an 
Indo-European/ Aryan human migration associated with the spread of food production 
economies from Anatolia. In doing so, he ignores critical archaeological data from 
Southwest Asia (Lamberg-Karlovsky 1988) and South Asia (Shaffer 1990). The South Asian 
archaeological data reviewed here does not support Renfrew's position nor any version of 
the migration/invasion hypothesis describing western population movement into South Asia. 
Rather, the physical distribution of prehistoric sites and artifacts, stratigraphic data, radio- 
metric dates, and geological data describing the prehistoric/proto-historic environment 
perhaps can account, in some degree, for the Vedic oral tradition describing a cultural 
discontinuity of what was an indigenous population movement in the Indo-Gangetic region. 
Over one hundred years ago, in a review of William Z. Ripley's publication The Races of 
Europe, Franz Boas called for the conceptual separation of biology (i.e. racial type) from 
culture (i.e. ethnography/history) and from language. In his words, "The misconception 
of what constitutes a racial type, a cultural group and a linguistic stock has caused a 
vast amount of futile speculation" (1899, reprinted in 1940: 159). He elaborated this 
viewpoint in more detail in his 1911 publication, The Mind of Primitive Man. 

It is obvious, therefore, that attempts to classify mankind, based on the present 
distribution of type, language and culture, must lead to different results, accord- 
ing to the point of view taken; that a classification based primarily on type 
alone will lead to a system which represents more or less accurately the blood- 
relationships of the people; but these do not need to coincide with their cultural 
relationships. In the same way classifications based on language and culture do 
not need to coincide with a biological classification. 

(1911, reprinted 1965: 142) 

Recognizing that the characteristics commonly used to construct individual and group 
identity which establishes presumed type/class "... is never more than an abstraction 
hardly ever realized in a single individual," Boas observes that even those efforts to assign 
human differences to a type/class are". . . often not even a result of observation, but an 
often heard tradition that determines our judgment" (1911, reprinted 1965: 241-2). 

Eloquently, in his closing paragraph, Boas reminds us that in having no preconceived 
estimate of an individual's ability and character, we obtain a freedom of judgment. "Then 
we shall treasure and cultivate the variety of forms that human thought and activity has 
taken, and abhor, as leading to complete stagnation, all attempts to impress one pattern of 
thought upon whole nations or even upon the whole world" (1911, reprinted 1965: 242). 

While Boas was thus remarking on the negative consequences of preconceived con- 
structs of human and group identity which specify a causal relationship between thought 
and accomplishment, we suggest that some of his views can be extended to the episte- 
mology and analytical methods used to construct preconceived accounts of South Asian 
prehistory and history. Such efforts still rely on interpretative paradigms established in 
western European scholarship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the end, 
such preconceived accounts of South Asian prehistory and history lead to a complete 
stagnation of interpretation. Scholars exercising a "freedom of judgment" cannot ignore 
new archaeological data pertaining to South Asia's prehistory and history. 




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Part II 





Matching the dispersal and contact patterns in the 
linguistic and archaeological record 

Asko Parpola and Christian Carpelan 

4.1 Introductory note 

The present chapter summarizes the main results of a much longer study 
(Carpelan and Parpola 2001). In that study (where detailed documentation can be 
found; 15 out of the 37 illustrations are reproduced here), we argue that the Indo- 
European and Uralic proto-languages were both spoken in archaeological cultures 
of eastern Europe, and that even the predecessors and some of the successors of 
these cultures were in contact with each other. The last part of the chapter corre- 
lating Indo-European and Uralic linguistic groups with definite archaeological 
cultures just reproduces the summary of the above-mentioned study. It is preceded 
by slightly modified and rearranged excerpts from other parts of that same study, 
focusing on some aspects of the linguistic record, especially issues related to 

4.2 The linguistic record 

A serious search for the homeland (original speaking area) of a particular 
linguistic group has to take as its starting point the earliest historically known 
distribution of the languages belonging to that group. Early distribution of the 
Indo-European languages (Figure 4. 1) is well known, and good expositions of the 
earliest evidence relating to each language group are easily accessible, for 
instance in J. P. Mallory's book In Search of the Indo-Europeans (1989) which 
even otherwise ought to be known to the readers of the present book. The Uralic 
language family is much less known, even though several good and recent books 
dealing with it are available (see Hajdu 1975, 1987; Sinor 1988; and Abondolo 
1998, each with further literature). We therefore begin with a brief survey, from 



ranian Tocharian 

Figure 4.1 Early distribution of the principal groups of Indo-European languages. 
Source: Mallory and Mair 2000: 119, fig. 50. 

west to east, of the Uralic languages (Figure 4.2) and their known history and 
internal relations. 

4.3 The Uralic language family and its main branches 

The Saami (non-native name: Lapp or Lappish) languages are nowadays spoken 
in northernmost Fennoscandia, in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola 
Peninsula of Russia; but it is known from historical sources and place names 
(which attest to phonological changes typical of Saami) that Saami was spoken in 
various parts of Finland and Russian Karelia until medieval times. 

The Finnic alias Baltic Finnic languages are nowadays spoken in Finland 
{Finnish, native name: Suomi), in Estonia {Estonian) and northern Latvia 
{Livonian), in Russian Karelia {Karelian), and in discontinuous areas from the 
southeastern shores of the Gulf of Finland to Lake Lagoda (Inkerois alias Ingrian; 
Vote alias Votyan) and further to Lake Onega {Veps alias Vepsian and Lude alias 


ss J "■■(---■ 


VI i L s s 



.a O 



Before the expansion of the Russian language from the southwest since the 
eighth century ad, the areas south and southwest of Vote and Veps were undoubt- 
edly inhabited by nowadays extinct Finno-Ugric languages that would have 
bridged Finnic with Mordvin. Medieval Russian chronicles mention such people 
as the Chud' (different peoples between Estonia and the northern Dvina), the 
Merya (on the upper Volga and in the Volga-Oka interfluve) and the Muroma and 
the Meshchera (who lived on the left, i.e. northern, side of the Oka). Mordvin is 
spoken in two distinct dialects (Erzya Mordvin and Moksha Mordvin), originally 
on the right (southeastern) side of the Oka, while Mari (non-native name: 
Cheremis) is spoken on the mid- Volga (between the Oka and the Kama) and 
(since c. ad 1600) in present Bashkiristan; Mari, too, has two dialects (Meadow 
Mari and Mountain Mari). These Volgaic languages were previously thought to 
form a separate branch, but nowadays Mordvin and Mari are no longer thought 
to be particularly close to each other. 

The Udmurt (non-native name: Votyak) and Komi (non-native name: Zyryan 
alias Zyryene) form the Permic branch of Finno-Ugric. The Udmurt have more 
or less remained in the old Permic homeland in the Kama- Vyatka interfluve on 
the European side of northern Russia. The Komi are divided in two groups, the 
Komi-Permyak on the upper reaches of the Kama and the Komi-Zyryan, who 
since c. ad 700 have moved northwards to their present habitats that extend up to 
the Pechora River. 

The Hungarian (native name: Magyar) speakers arrived in Hungary by the tenth 
century ad. The starting point of their migration was the present Bashkiristan in the 
southern Urals, where Old Hungarian survived until late medieval times, when the 
last of its speakers adopted the Turkic Bashkir language. The nearest linguistic 
relatives of the Hungarians, the Ob-Ugric peoples of Khanty (non-native name: 
Ostyak) and Mansi (non-native name: Vogul), live in a wide area in northwestern 
Siberia between the Urals and the river Ob and its tributaries. Their former habitats 
included (until early 1900s) areas west of the Urals, but the arrival of Russians 
some 500 years ago started their move eastwards to the Irtysh and to the Ob. The 
homeland of the Ugric branch is thought to have been in the forests and forest 
steppe of the southern Urals. 

The Samoyed languages form the easternmost branch of the Uralic language 
family. Proto-Samoyedic is thought to have disintegrated as late as only c.2000 
years ago. On the basis of Turkic and Ketic (Yeniseic) loan words in Proto- 
Samoyedic, the earliest habitats of the Samoyeds were in the forest steppe zone 
of Siberia between the Urals and the Sayan and Altai mountains. The now extinct 
Samoyed languages Kamassian (with the related Koibal) and Motor alias Mator 
(with the related Taigi and Karagas) were spoken in the Sayan region partly until 
the early nineteenth century; the only surviving Samoyed language of the south- 
ern group is Selqup (non-native name: Ostyak Samoyed) spoken along the upper 
reaches of the Ob and Yenisei rivers. The ancestors of the Nenets (non-native 
name: Yurak), the Enets (non-native name: Yenisei Samoyed), and the Nganasan 
(non-native name: Tavgi) are thought to have arrived in northern Siberia c. ad 500, 



the Nenets continuing westwards to the tundra areas of northeast Europe. The 
first historical source to mention the Samoyeds is the Old Russian so-called 
"Nestor's Chronicle," according to which they lived as the neighbors of the 
Ob-Ugrians (Yugra) in 1096. 

Although only about 130 words of those about 700 that can be reconstructed 
for Proto-Samoyedic go back to the Uralic proto-language (cf. Janhunen 1977, 
1981), Samoyedic in its long isolation has in many respects remained remarkably 
archaic, so that its comparison with the likewise archaic Finnic branch at the other 
end of the language family constitutes the most reliable means to reconstruct 

Traditionally the genetic classification of the Uralic languages starts with the 
division of the proto-language into two, Proto-Finno-Ugric and Proto-Samoyedic. 
While the Samoyedic languages are spoken in Siberia, practically all Finno-Ugric 
languages (including some extinct ones) appear to have been originally spoken in 
the forest area of northeastern Europe west of the Ural mountains. 

4.4 Early Indo-European loanwords in Uralic languages 

Uralic languages contain many loanwords from Indo-European languages. A brief 
"list of Indo-European loan-words" was included by Bjorn Collinder in his 
Fenno-Ugric Vocabulary: An Etymological Dictionary of the Uralic Languages 
(Collinder 1955: 128^41). The early contacts between Indo-European and Uralic 
languages were discussed in detail by Aulis J. Joki in his monograph on this sub- 
ject from 1973 (with 222 etyma), and Karoly Redei's Uralisches etymologisches 
Worterbuch (Redei 1988-91) as well as the two etymological dictionaries of the 
Finnish language (SKES 1955-78 and SSA 1992-2000) naturally also take a 
stand in the matter. Jorma Koivulehto with his rare double competence in Indo- 
European as well as Uralic linguistics has been able to increase the number of 
such etymologies considerably, and to refine earlier proposed etymologies. 
Koivulehto 's recent summary article (2001) provides the most up-to-date survey 
of the topic; it analyzes a large number of words and the linguistic criteria that 
enable them to be assigned to a specific source and temporal horizon. 

It is fairly generally accepted that the reconstructed protoforms of a considerable 
number of these loanwords often constitute the earliest existing external evidence 
of the languages involved. This is true not only of the Indo-European proto-language 
itself, but also of its Aryan, Baltic, and Germanic branches. In such cases the Uralic 
loanword represents an earlier stage of development than the respective proto- 
language has in the reconstruction based on its surviving descendents. A case in 
point is Proto- Volga-Finnic *kestra 'spindle' < pre-Proto-Aryan *keftro- 'spindle' 
(whence Old Indo-Aryan cattra-, cattra- and Old Iranian *castra- > Pashto casai), 
from Proto-Indo-European *kerftro- < *kert-tro- < *kert- 'to spin' (whence 
Sanskrit kart- 'to spin') (cf. Koivulehto 1979). In this example, the shape of 
the Finno-Ugric words for 'spindle' suggests that the borrowing took place before 
Proto-Aryan (the only branch of Indo-European to have comparable nominal 



derivatives) had reached the stage reconstructed on the basis of the Aryan 
languages descended from it. 

In the following we focus on some words that are of particular importance for 
the question as to where the Uralic and Aryan homelands were situated. 

4.5 The Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Aryan loanwords 
for 'honey' and 'bee' 

It is generally accepted that Proto-Finno-Ugric *mete 'honey' (distributed in 
Finnic, Saami, Mordvin, Udmurt, Komi, and Hungarian) is borrowed from Proto- 
Indo-European = pre-Proto-Aryan *medhu- (which became *madhu- in Proto- 
Aryan) (cf. Joki 1973: 283-5; Redei 1988: I, 655f; Mayrhofer 1996: II, 302f). 
The same pre-Proto-Aryan vowel *e is found in Proto-Finno-Ugric *mekse 'bee' 
(distributed in Finnic, Mordvin, Mari, Udmurt, Komi, and Hungarian) which 
on the Indo-European side has a reasonable counterpart only in the Aryan branch 
(cf. Joki 1973: 281f; Redei 1988: 1, 655; Mayrhofer 1996: II, 287). Fedor Keppen 
(1886: 84-6, 107-13) alias Theodor Koppen (1890) and other scholars including 
Peter Hajdu have rightly stressed that the Indo-European loanwords for 'honey' 
and 'bee' are key terms for locating the oldest habitats of the Finno-Ugric speakers. 
The honeybee 

was unknown in Asia, until relatively recent times, with the exception of 
Asia Minor, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China, none of which 
can be taken into account for our purposes. The bee was not found in 
Siberia, Turkestan, Central Asia and Mongolia; indeed, it was introduced 
to Siberia only at the end of the eighteenth century. On the other hand, the 
bee is found west of the Urals in eastern Europe, mainly from the north- 
ern limit of the oak (. . .), or from Latitude 57°-58° southwards. Moreover, 
the middle Volga region was known of old as a bee-keeping area. 

(Hajdu 1975: 33) 

Hajdu's statements conform to the latest state of research summarized in Eva 
Crane's extensive book, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting 
(1999). Apis mellifera is native to the region comprising Africa, Arabia and the 
Near East up to Iran, and Europe up to the Urals in the east and to southern 
Sweden and Estonia in the north; its spread further north was limited by arctic 
cold, while its spread to the east was limited by mountains, deserts, and other bar- 
riers. Another important limiting factor was that the cool temperate deciduous 
forests of Europe extend only as far east as the Urals and do not grow in Siberia (see 
later). The distribution of Apis mellifera was confined to this area until c. ad 1600, 
when it started being transported to other regions (Crane 1999: 1 1-14). Thus hive 
bee-keeping was extended to Siberia from the 1770s, when upright log hives were 
taken from the Ukraine and European Russia to Ust'-Kamenogorsk and Tomsk, 
from where it started spreading (Keppen 1886: 109-11; Crane 1999: 232, 366f). 



Another species of cavity-nesting honeybee, Apis cerana, is native to Asia east 
and south of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Korea, and Japan (cf. Crane 1999: 

Tree bee-keeping is one of the oldest methods of exploiting Apis mellifera. Tree 
bee-keeping is supposed to have developed early in the area of the Oka, mid- 
Volga, and lower Kama - areas long inhabited by Finno-Ugric speaking peoples. 
This zone has had rich deciduous forests with broad-leaved trees which shed their 
leaves before winter; the leaves foster the growth of herbs and shrubs, which 
together with the flowers of the trees provide forage for honey bees. This region 
has been particularly rich in limes, the flowers of which were the principal source 
of honey here; it remained the most important area of tree bee-keeping until 
the early 1900s, when the bee forests largely disappeared. Besides the limes and 
other flowering trees, the cool temperate deciduous forests of Europe had big 
oaks that develop large and long-lasting cavities for the bees to nest in (the bees 
prefer cavities having a volume of around 50 liters). Large pines and spruces 
enabled tree bee-keeping also in such coniferous forests of northern Europe that 
were not too cold in the winter and had enough forage for the bees, especially in 
northern Russia, in the Baltic region and in Poland and east Germany (Crane 
1999: 62, 127). 

The natural habitat of the oak (Quercus robur) and the lime (Tilia cordata), 
which have been the most important trees for tree bee-keeping in central Russia, 
grow in Europe as far east as the southern Urals (60° E). Today, Quercus robur is 
not found in Siberia at all (cf. Hulten and Fries 1986: 1, 315, map 630; III, 1031), 
but there are scattered occurrences of Tilia cordata in western Siberia (cf. Hulten 
and Fries 1986: II, 651, map 1301). According to palynological investigations the 
lime spread to central Russia from the (south)west in the early Boreal period 
(c.8150-6900 calBc). In the favorable Atlantic conditions (c.6900-3800 calBc), 
the spread of Tilia cordata continued to western Siberia, but in the unfavorable 
conditions of the Subboreal period (c. 3800-600 calBc) a considerable reduction of 
elements of broad-leaved forests is seen east of the Urals leaving isolated occur- 
rences at some favorable spots. The disjunct distribution of another species, Tilia 
sibirica, is found between the upper Syr Darya and the upper Yenisei (cf. Hulten 
and Fries 1986: II, 651, map 1301). In any case, the scattered isolated occurrences 
of the lime in western Siberia cannot be compared with the dense lime forests 
that have long existed in central Russia, and the Siberian limes can hardly have 
provided a basis for prehistoric bee-keeping. 

'Bee' or 'honey' are not among the meanings of those around 700 words that 
are found in at least one language of both the northern and the southern group 
of the Samoyedic languages and can thus be reconstructed for Proto-Samoyedic 
(cf. Janhunen 1977). It is possible that pre-Proto- Samoyedic did inherit these 
words from Proto-Finno-Ugric (from which they seem to have departed), but lost 
them in Siberia, because bee and honey did not exist there. There are indeed 
no old words for 'bee' in Samoyedic languages: Kamassian pinekiis 'bee' literally 
means 'searching wasp'. In Nenets there are four words for 'honey', but one is 



a native neologism literally meaning 'good-tasting water' and three are relatively 
recent loans: ma < Komi ma; m 'ab < Khanty mav; m 'od/m 'ot < Russian med 
(cf. Joki 1973: 284f.). 

Tree bee-keeping is to be distinguished from honey hunting, in which honey is 
simply stolen and bees may be killed, and from the later hive bee-keeping, which 
started in forest areas in the twelfth century when trees were cut down on land 
taken for agriculture. Climbing the tree unaided or with the help of rope, 
footholds, or ladder, the beekeeper on his frequent rounds tended the bee nests 
located either in natural tree cavities or in holes that he himself had made with 
axe and chisel. In either case, an upright rectangular opening to the cavity was 
made and furnished with a removable two-part door having small flight entrances 
for the bees. The entrances and the inner surfaces were kept clean, and the nest 
was protected against bears, woodpeckers, and thieves. During winter, all open- 
ings but one were closed and straw was tied around the trunk to insulate it. The 
honeycombs were harvested in spring (which is the main flowering season) and 
at the end of summer; with the help of smoke put into the nest, the bees were 
kept in the upper part, while the honeycombs were taken with a wooden ladle 
from the lower part; something was left for the bees. The Mari traditionally did 
this at full moon, with prayers said at each stage of the operation and addressed 
to the Great God, God of Heaven, God of Bees, Mother of Plenty, and so on 
(Crane 1999: 127-35). 

Old Russian historical records tell that by ad 1000 or earlier, the aristocracy 
and monasteries owned many and often large bee woods (with 100-500 tree 
cavities, but only some 10-20 occupied at a time). These were looked after by a 
special class of peasants called bortnik, who could also own bee trees (usually 
between 100 and 200), but had to pay the landlord a rent. Cut ownership marks 
were put on the trees, sometimes on the back wall of the cavity. Large amounts of 
honey and beeswax were produced in Russia, and the honey was both eaten and 
used for making mead. The aristocracy needed mead for its parties in large quan- 
tities. At a seven-day feast held in ad 996 to celebrate the Russian victory over 
the Turks, 300 large wooden tubs or about 5000 liters of mead was drunk. Bee- 
keeping declined in the late seventeenth century as Tsar Peter the Great imposed 
a tax on bee-keeping income and founded a sugar industry. This reduced the 
demand for honey, and vodka and wine were produced instead of mead, which 
until then had been the usual alcoholic drink in Russia. Conditions improved 
again when Catherine the Great abolished all taxes on bee-keeping: in 1800, 
there were 50 million beehives in the Russian Empire (Crane 1999: 63, 129-35, 
232f, 515). 

For the Proto-Indo-Europeans, too, honey (*medhu) was important as the 
source of mead, which was also called *medhu: this original meaning is preserved 
in the Celtic, Germanic, and Baltic cognates, while the Greek cognate methu has 
come to denote another alcoholic drink, wine, and Sanskrit mddhu in Vedic texts 
usually denotes the honey-sweetened variety of the sacred Soma drink, and in 
later Indian texts often wine (grown in, and imported from, Afghanistan). The 



ancient Aryans, however, also drank some kind of mead, for according to the 
Vedic manuals, an honored guest had to be received by offering him a drink 
mixed with honey (madhu-parka or madhu-mantha, cf. e.g. Kausikasutva 90). 
Moreover, the Greek lexicographer Hesychios mentions melition (from Greek 
meli gen. melitos 'honey') as 'a Scythian drink'. The Ossetes of the Caucasus, 
descended from the Scythians, are said to have worshipped a bee goddess (Crane 
1999: 602); Ossetic mid/mud has preserved the meaning 'honey', while Avestan 
maSu, Sogdian mSw, and Modern Persian mai mean 'wine'. 

In the Vedic religion, madhu as a cultic drink was connected with the Asvins, 
the divine twins 'possessing horses', who function as cosmic charioteers and sav- 
iours from mortal danger (cf. e.g. Atharva-Veda 9.1). The Satapatha-Brahmana 
(14.1.1) relates a myth in which the Asvins learn the secret 'knowledge of the 
madhu' which enables its possessor to revive a dead person. They learn it from 
the demon Dadhyahc, whom the god Indra had forbidden to reveal the secret to 
anyone, threatening to cut off the head of the offender. The Asvins, however, 
promised to revive Dadhyanc after he had taught them the secret, and replaced the 
head of their teacher with the head of a horse. After Indra in punishment had cut 
off Dadhyanc^ horse head, the Asvins replaced it with the original one and 
revived him. This myth seems to be connected with an earlier form of the Vedic 
horse sacrifice, in which a young warrior and a horse were beheaded, and their 
heads swapped in a ritual of "revival" (cf. Parpola 1983: 62-3). 

The Vedic tradition seems to have a predecessor in the mid- Volga region in the 
beginning of the second millennium bc: a grave belonging to the Potapovka cul- 
ture (Figure 4.10), which succeeded the Abashevo culture (Figure 4.9) and pos- 
sessed the horse-drawn chariot, was found to contain a skeleton which was 
otherwise human except for the skull which belonged to a horse (cf. Vasil'ev et al. 
1994: 115, Fig. 11; cf. Anthony and Vinogradov 1995). Sulimirski (1970: 295) 
quotes some evidence for human sacrifice accompanied by beheaded calves and 
burnt cows from an Abashevo culture site in the southern Urals. There may be a 
reminiscence of this ancient Aryan tradition in the Finnish folk poetry incorpo- 
rated in the Kalevala, where the mother of the slain hero Lemminkainen with the 
help of the bee and honey revives the body of her son, who has been cut into 
pieces (cf. Parpola 1999: 201). 

Proto-Finno-Ugric *mete 'honey' is formed like Uralic *wete 'water', which 
(along with the similar Uralic word *nime 'name' and Proto-Finno-Ugric *sixne 
'sinew') has always been considered to be among the oldest Indo-European 
loanwords (cf. e.g. Hajdii 1987: 300; Koivulehto 1999: 209-10). Perhaps they 
were borrowed together with the earliest Uralic word for 'pot', *pata, when the 
ancestors of the later Proto-Uralic speakers learnt the technique of pottery 
making and the process of making mead or honey-beer from their southern 
neighbors, ancestors of the later Proto-Indo-Europeans. This would have taken 
place with the appearance of the earliest ceramics in the forest region of eastern 
Europe, c.6000 bc. Unless the reward was something very desirable, like storing 
honey that constituted a very valuable food resource or social celebrations with 



an alcoholic drink made of honey, it is difficult to understand what could have 
induced hunter-gatherers - not practising agriculture - to make enormous pots 
that were difficult to move. It could also explain why such a basic word as 'water' 
would have been borrowed. However, with the arrival of the Aryan speakers of the 
Abashevo culture, honey-keeping apparently became more effectively organized. 
The bronze axes and adzes of the Abashevo culture were undoubtedly used in tree 
bee-keeping, to prepare new nests for captured bee-swarms and to maintain and 
protect them. 

4.6 A new Proto-Indo-Aryan etymology for a Volga-Permic 
word for 'beeswax' 

Beeswax, which keeps indefinitely, is easily transported, and has various technical 
uses, especially in metallurgy, was the second most important export article after 
fur in ancient and medieval Russia. Before the coming of Christianity in the tenth 
century ad, Russia exported much of its beeswax to Byzantium and beyond, for 
churches and monasteries that needed wax for candles. But as early as the fifth 
century bc, Scythia was one of the main exporters of beeswax. The Scythians also 
used wax for coating the body of their king when he died, so that it could be put 
on a wagon and carried around all the subject nations before the burial 
(Herodotus 4.71). According to Herodotus (1.140.2), the Persians, too, coated the 
dead body with wax before burying it in the ground (Crane 1999: 538). 

Besides mead, beeswax in the form of a sacred candle occupied a central posi- 
tion in the religion of the Finno-Ugric peoples of the Oka, mid- Volga and Kama 
region, who had beekeeping as one of their main occupations. The mead and wax- 
candle accompanied practically all of their ceremonies. Thus a candle was lighted 
in front of the honey vat after the honey harvest had been taken home, with 
prayers addressed to the God of the Bees, and to the Bee-Mother, and so on. Each 
clan further had its own clan candle lighted once a year, during Easter, when the 
dead ancestors were remembered (Hamalainen 1937). 

Beeswax produced in great quantities in the forest region of the mid- Volga was 
certainly a major incentive for the metallurgists of the early Aryan speakers to get 
this region under their control. The smiths needed beeswax to make molds for 
casting metal. There was some metallurgy in the mid- Volga region as early as the 
Volosovo culture (Figure 4.7: H), but it reached another level in the succeeding 
Balanovo (Figure 4.6: B) and Abashevo (Figure 4.9) cultures. 

Estonian and Finnish vaha < *vaksa 'beeswax' is derived from Proto-Baltic 
*vaska- (Lithuanian vaskas, Latvian vasks 'wax'), which like Old Slavonic vosku 
and Russian vosk comes from Proto-Indo-European *wosko-; Proto-Germanic 
*waxsa comes from the variant *wokso-. Another word for 'beeswax' in Finno- 
Ugric languages, Estonian kdrg, Mordvin k'eras, Mari karas, karas, karas, and 
Udmurt karas, is likewise of Baltic origin, cf Lithuanian korys 'honey-comb', 
Latvian kdre(s) 'honey-comb': the vowel of the first syllable can only come from 
Baltic *a, not from *e in Greek keros 'wax', kerion 'honey-comb', and Latin cera 



'wax' (which is a loanword from Greek), whence Irish ceir 'wax' and Welsh cwyr 
'wax'; the Turkic languages of the Volga region have borrowed the word from 
Finno-Ugric: Kazan kdrdz, karas, Bashkir kdrd-, Chuvas karas 'honey-comb'. 

In the Volga-Permic languages there is yet another appellation for 'beeswax' that 
has been thought to be the old native Finno-Ugric word, apparently because 
no external etymology has been proposed for it so far: Mordvin (Moksha dialect) 
sta, (Erzya dialect) ksta, sta, Mari siste, Udmurt sus < *sust, Komi sis (sist-, sisk-, 
sis-), ma-sis; all these words denote 'beeswax', but in Komi the usual meaning is 
'wax candle, light' (the word ma in the compound ma-sis means 'honey'). Heikki 
Paasonen (1903: 1 12) reconstructed the protoform as *siksta or *siksf'Jta. Karoly 
Redei in his Worterbuch (1988: II, 785f), summariz- 
ing twelve scholars' studies of these words gives us the reconstruction *sikst3; he 
notes, however, that while it is possible to derive the forms of all the languages 
from this reconstruction, its k is based on the Mordvin dialectal variant only, and 
this k may be just an epenthetic glide that has come into being inside the word; 
moreover, the s in the middle of the word has caused an assimilation *s > s at the 
beginning of the word in Permic languages, while in the Komi compound ma-sis, 
a dissimilation *s > s has taken place; and the change *i > u in Udmurt is 
irregular. But the assimilation *s > s in Permic may have taken place in the mid- 
dle of the word as well as at the beginning, because in Mari *s always became s 
at the beginning of a word and inside the word, s in front of voiceless stops, while 
original *s was preserved in these positions (cf. Bereczki 1988: 335). In the 
Mordvin words the vowel has first been reduced in the unstressed first syllable 
and then dropped, cf. E ksna, E M sna < *seksna < *suksna 'strap' (cf. Bereczki 
1988: 321). In this Baltic loanword the k is etymological (cf. Lithuanian siksna, 
Latvian siksna 'strap'), but in the 'wax' word it may be due to the analogy of this 
"very similar" word (cf. Jacobsohn 1922: 166). Thus it seems that the recon- 
struction of the word for 'wax' could equally well be *siksta (as proposed by 
Paasonen) or *sista. 

In Indian sources, a formally and semantically perfect match can be found 
for Proto-Volga-Permic *sista 'beeswax', namely Sanskrit sista- < Proto-Indo- 
Aryan *sistd-, preterite participle regularly formed with the suffix -td- from 
the verbal root iis-'to leave (over)'. In Rdmdyana 5.60.10. 'beeswax' is called 
madhu-sista-, literally 'what is left over of honey' and in some other texts syn- 
onymous terms madhucchista- and madhu-sesa-. Sista- is used as a neuter noun 
meaning 'remainder, remnant' in Vedic texts (cf. Satapatha-Brdhmana 1 
interestingly, this passage speaks of eating honey). Sanskrit sista- has become 
sittha- 'left over, remainder' in Middle Indo-Aryan; its cognates in Modern Indo- 
Aryan languages usually mean 'dregs', but in Singhalese 'wax' (cf. Turner 1966: 
nos 12478 and 12480). 

There is an exact correspondence even between the Sanskrit compound 
madhu-sista- 'beeswax' and the Komi compound ma-sis 'beeswax', for Komi ma 
corresponding to Udmurt mu goes back to Proto-Permic *mo and this to Proto- 
Finno-Ugric *mete 'honey', just as Komi va corresponding to Udmurt vu 



goes back to Proto-Permic *wo and Proto-Uralic *wete 'water' (cf. Itkonen 
1953-54: 319f.). 

Besides, there is the following undoubtedly related etymon in Indo- Aryan: Sanskrit 
siktha-, siktha-, sikthaka- n., Middle Indo-Aryan sittha-, sitthaka-, sitthaya- n., 
Kashmiri syothu m. and Lahnda and Punjabi sittha m., all meaning 'beeswax' 
(cf. Turner 1966: no. 13390). This variant suggests contamination by Sanskrit 
sikta- (Middle Indo-Aryan sitta-, whence Khowar«Y 'silt, dregs', cf. Turner 1966: 
no. 13388): the latter is the past participle of the verb sic- 'to pour (out) (some- 
thing liquid)', which is used also of 'casting liquid metal' (cf. Atharva-Veda 
11.10.12-13; Taittivlya-Samhitd;; Aitareya-Brdhmana 4.1; all 
these texts speak of casting the demon-destroying thunderbolt- weapon). Beeswax 
plays a central role in the lost-wax method of metal casting, which was used in 
Abashevo metallurgy. If the contamination of *sista- and *sikta- took place in the 
(pre-)Proto-Indo-Aryan language of the Abashevo culture, it offers yet another 
possibility to explain the 'epenthetic' k in the Erzya Mordvin variant ksta 

The formal and semantic match between these Volga-Permic and Indo-Aryan 
words for 'beeswax' is so close that there can hardly be doubt about this etymol- 
ogy. It is particularly significant, because these words, like the very root sis - < 
*cis- 'to leave (over)' (possibly from Proto-Indo-European *k'(e)i-s- 'to leave 
lying') with all its verbal and nominal derivatives, are missing in the entire Iranian 
branch. Thus the Volga-Permic word can hardly be from an early Iranian lan- 
guage, and strongly suggests that the Abashevo culture (Figure 4.9) was domi- 
nated by Aryans belonging to the "Indo-Aryan" branch. Several Finno-Ugric 
loanwords have previously been suspected to be of specifically Proto-Indo-Aryan 
origin (cf. Koivulehto 1999: 227), but the new etymology narrows the Proto-Indo- 
Aryan affinity down to the Abashevo culture. Among the other early Proto-Indo- 
Aryan loanwords in Finno-Ugric is *ora 'awl' < Pro to- Aryan *drd = Sanskrit 
drd- 'awl' (cf. Koivulehto 1987: 206f), which is likewise not found in the Iranian 
branch at all. Also Proto-Finno-Ugric *vasara 'hammer, axe' (cf. Joki 1973: 339) 
on account of its palatalized sibilant is from Proto-Aryan or Proto-Indo-Aryan 
rather than Proto-Iranian, where depalatalization took place (cf. Mayrhofer 1989: 
4, 6), cf. Sanskrit vajra- 'thunder-bolt, weapon of Indra the god of thunder and 
war' versus Avestan vazra- 'mace, the weapon of the god Mithra' , possibly from 
the Proto-Indo-European *weg'- 'to be(come) powerful'. 

In Proto-Volga-Permic *sista 'beeswax', the Proto-Finno-Ugric palatal sibilant 
*s corresponds to the Proto(-Indo)-Aryan palatal affricate *c or palatal sibilant 
*s. Jorma Koivulehto (pers. comm.) has pointed out that this does not necessar- 
ily imply that the satemization had already taken place in the donor language, 
because Proto-Finno-Ugric (Proto-Uralic) *s already substitutes the palatalized 
velar stop *k' of the Indo-European proto-language: with one uncertain excep- 
tion, there are no examples of the PIE palatalized velar stops being substituted 
with Proto-Uralic/Proto-Finno-Ugric *k. This makes us wonder whether the 
satemization of the Baltic and Aryan branches was triggered by the substratum of 



the Fiimo-Ugric majority language in the area of the Fat'yanovo/Balanovo 
(Figure 4.6: F, B) and Abashevo (Figure 4.9) cultures respectively, and spread 
from them to the other cultures speaking Proto-Baltic and Proto-Aryan languages 
(cf also Kallio 2001). 

On the other hand, the second affrication of velars before a front vowel has 
not yet taken place in the Aryan donor language of Saami geavri < *kekrd 
'circular thing' (actual meanings in Saami: 'ring, circular stopper of the ski 
stick, shaman's circular drum') and Finnish kekri < *kekra-j 'ancient pagan 
new year feast', which go back to early Proto-Aryan *kekro-, whence, through 
the intermediate form *cekro-, Proto-Aryan (and Sanskrit) cakrd- 'wheel, cir- 
cle, cycle of years or seasons' (other branches of Indo-European do not have 
the development *r < */ from Proto-Indo-European *k w ek w lo- 'wheel, cycle') 
(cf. Koivulehto 2001: no. 42; Pokorny 1959: 640). These words have probably 
come to Saami and Finnish through the Netted Ware culture (Figure 4.8) and 
the Sejma-Turbino Intercultural Phenomenon (Figure 4.11), the ruling elite of 
which seems to have come both from the Abashevo culture (Figure 4.9, 
assumed to have spoken early 'Proto-Indo-Aryan') and from the Pozdnyakovo 
culture (assumed to have spoken early 'Proto-Iranian'). 

What the Volga-Permic reconstruction *sista 'beeswax' does suggest is that the 
RUKI rule was already functioning when the word was borrowed: Proto-Indo- 
European *s became *s after *i (and after *r, *u and *k) in Proto-Aryan (and in 
varying measure in Proto-Balto-Slavic, cf. Porzig 1954: 164f). 

4.7 Aryan ethnonyms of Finno-Ugric peoples 

The former presence of an Aryan-speaking elite layer among the Finno-Ugric 
speaking peoples of the Oka- Volga-Kama region (Figure 4.2) is clearly visible in 
the ethnonyms of these peoples. The name Mari goes back to Proto-Aryan 
*mdrya- 'man', literally 'mortal, one who has to die'. It is quite possible that this 
ethnic name is of Bronze Age origin, for marya- is used in Mitanni Aryan of Syria 
(c. 500-1300 bc) for the nobility with horse chariots. The name Mordvin seems to 
go back to early Proto-Aryan morto- 'mortal, man'. The same word was sepa- 
rately borrowed into Finnic after the change o > a had taken place in Proto- 
Aryan, so as to yield mdrta- 'mortal, man' preserved in Old Indo-Aryan: Finnish 
marras, stem marta- 'dying, dead; manly, male'. The corresponding appellative 
reconstructed for Volga-Permic, *mertd 'man, human being' is likewise a loan- 
word from Proto-Aryan: er substitutes vocalic r in Proto-Aryan and Old Indo- 
Aryan mrtd- 'mortal, man'. This same Proto-Aryan word occurs as the second 
element of the ethnonym Udmurt as well. The ethnonym Arya/Arya appears as a 
loanword in Finnish and Saami, the reconstructed original shape being *orya, 
written orja in modern Finnish, where it denotes 'slave'; this meaning can be 
explained as coming from Aryan taken as a war-captive or prisoner', as English 
slave comes from 'captive Slav'. Besides *orya, there are several other early 
Aryan loanwords where the labial vowel o (or o) of Proto-Finno-Ugric corresponds 



to Proto-Aryan a/a, reflecting a somewhat labialized realization on the Aryan 
side, apparently in early Proto-Indo-Aryan. 

The Ugric languages share several very early Aryan loanwords (e.g. 
Hungarian meh 'bee'). The ethnic name Yugra is used of the Ob-Ugrians in the 
Old Russian "Nestor's Chronicle." As shown by Tuomo Pekkanen (1973), this 
ethnic name was used of the Hungarians as well and has an Aryan etymology. 
Proto-Aryan *ugrd- 'mighty, strong, formidable, noble' occurs in Old Indo- 
Aryan and Old Iranian not only as an adjective but also as a tribal name and as 
a proper name. The Greek historian Strabo (64 bc-ad 19) in his Geography 
(7.3.17) says that the Scythian tribe of 'Royal Sarmatians' were also called 
Ourgoi. This is a metathesis form of the word ugra, attested also in Scythian 
proper names such as Aspourgos (= Old Iranian aspa- 'horse' + ugra-). These 
Ourgoi were settled between the Dniester and the Dnieper; according to Strabo, 
they "in general are nomads, though a few are interested also in farming; these 
peoples, it is said, dwell also along the Ister (i.e. the Danube), often on both 
sides." The Ourgoi seem to have included also Hungarians, since a third- or 
fourth-century Latin inscription (CIL III, 5234) from the borders of Hungary 
mentions raiders called Mattzari, which agrees with the later Byzantine 
transcriptions of Magyar, the self-appellation of the Hungarians, called 
Majqhari in the tenth-century Muslim sources. 

4.8 The archaeological record 

In order to function, a human community needs both means of making a living 
(reflected by the material cultures of archaeology) and means of communication 
(in the form of languages); and the shared material culture and the shared lan- 
guage are both among the strongest sources of ethnic identity. If various peoples 
lived in isolation, their material cultures and their languages could be expected to 
change only little over time (cf. the case of Icelandic), and essentially there would 
be continuity in both spheres. But very few people have lived in isolation. Contact 
with other communities has normally led to changes, the extent and pace of which 
depend on the intensity of the contact. Trade contacts may result in the introduc- 
tion of new kinds of artifacts and loanwords denoting new ideas and objects. 
Conquests or immigrations usually lead to radical changes: a community may 
abandon its previous way of life or language, and adopt a new one. Language shift 
is realized through bilingualism, when parts of the population become able to 
speak two (or more) languages. 

Continuities as well as cultural contacts and their intensity can usually be seen 
both from the archaeological record and from a language (inherited vocabulary 
versus loanwords, structural changes) when analyzed with the comparative 
method. Archaeology and linguistics both have developed their own special meth- 
ods and techniques to do this, and they must be respected in a serious attempt to 
correlate the results of the two disciplines. Unlike reconstructed protoforms of 



languages, prehistoric archaeological cultures can usually be placed on the map 
and dated; but since they by definition have not left any readable written remains, 
their correlation with definite languages or language groups poses a number of 
problems. Correlations proposed without acceptable methodology are worthless. 
Concerning the methodology to be followed in an attempt to correlate linguistic 
and archaeological evidence we are in full agreement with J. P. Mallory and refer 
the reader to his excellent systematic exposition (Mallory 2001). A few points 
may be emphasized however. 

Adequate dating and chronology are crucial for the correlation. In archaeology, 
dating and chronology has traditionally been based on the classical typological 
method. We believe, however, that the radiocarbon method offers the only feasi- 
ble basis for building a realistic prehistoric archaeological chronology in eastern 
Europe and western Siberia as well as elsewhere. The survey and use of a contin- 
uously growing corpus of radiocarbon dates from eastern Europe and western 
Siberia has recently been made easier with the publication of date lists, in addi- 
tion to scattered articles with notes on new dates. In total there are several hun- 
dred dates available today. The radiocarbon ages are calibrated by Carpelan 
according to the 'Original Groningen Method' based on the median of the cumu- 
lative probability of a date and the INTCAL98 calibration curve (cf. Plicht 1993). 
Calibrated calendar dates are marked cal bc. 

Isolated correlations of one language with one archaeological culture may look 
plausible in some respects, but they do not allow the results to be checked. A 
holistic solution that covers the entire spectrum of relevant cultures and languages 
does make some control possible. An archaeological culture has not only its geo- 
graphical and temporal extent and a specific content (e.g. the use of certain tools, 
plants, and animals) but also specific relationships to other archaeological cul- 
tures diachronically and synchronically Each language, too, has similar, though 
often less exact parameters, particularly its genetic and areal relationships to other 
languages. This means that the correlation of an archaeological culture with a 
specific language or language group can be tested by checking how well the 
implied external archaeological and linguistic relationships match, and whether 
these matches will stand if the whole web of these relationships is worked out 

The earliest historical seats of the various Indo-European languages are widely 
separated from each other (Figure 4.1), but these languages all go back to a sin- 
gle proto-language. Is there any one archaeological culture, from which one could 
derive cultures that are intrusive in all (or all but one) of these widely dispersed 
areas? A crucial temporal clue is given by the fact that all Indo-European lan- 
guages possess inherited vocabulary related to wheeled transport (Figure 4.3). 
The Indo-European proto-language had these terms before its disintegration, and 
the daughter languages have not borrowed them from one another after the dis- 
persal. Therefore, the speakers of the Indo-European proto-language knew and 
used wheeled vehicles, and the wheeled vehicles were first invented around the 
middle of the fourth millennium bc (cf. Anthony 1995). The earliest evidence of 



Figure 4.3 Distribution of inherited terminology related to wheeled transport in Indo- 
European languages. 

Source: Anthony 1995: 557, fig. 1, Meid 1994. 

wheeled vehicles comes from Bronocice in Poland (Figure 4.4). It is a drawing 
of a wagon on a clay vessel belonging to occupational Phase III which is dated 
to c.3470-3210 calBC (cf. Piggott 1983). The dispersal of Late Proto-Indo- 
European, then, cannot have taken place much earlier than 3500 cal bc. Just about 
this time, when the ox-drawn cart or wagon with two or four solid wheels became 
locally available, the pastoral Pit Grave (alias Yamna or Yamnaya) culture 
(Figures 4.5, 4.6: Y), according to a number of radiocarbon dates, emerged in the 
Pontic steppe and began to expand. 

This is the starting point for the following scenario, which is put forward as a 
set of theses for further substantiation or falsification. Undoubtedly, many details 
need adjustment and are subject to correction. However, this is a holistic attempt 
to fit together several interacting factors, and it seems difficult to find any other 
archaeological model which in general could equally well explain the areal and 
temporal distribution of the Indo-European and Uralic languages and the internal 
contacts between them at different times and in different places. This applies 
especially if the invention of wheeled transport is taken as the terminus post quern 
for the dispersal of Late Proto-Indo-European. 


10* 20" 

30" 40- 

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Figure 4.4 Distribution of the earliest finds of wheeled vehicles, 3500-2000 calBC. 
Source: Piggott 1983: 59, fig. 27. 

||Yamna Sredny Stog ^g Khvalvnsk ;; ; Botay ||| Keltemfnar ||| Afanasyevo 

Figure 4.5 The Eurasian steppe region in the fifth-third millennium bc. 
Source: Mallory 1994-95: 254, fig. 3. 


Figure 4.6 The distribution of the Pit Grave (Yamnaya) culture (Y and diagonal lines) and 
the Corded Ware cultural entity (stippled). 

Source: Carpelan and Parpola 2001, fig. 6, adapted from Rowlett 1987: 194, map 1. 


Within the Corded Ware area, the circle indicates the Sub-Carpathian group, MD = the Middle 
Dnieper culture, F = the Fat'yanovo culture, B = the Balanovo culture and S = the Scandinavian 
Corded Ware culture. The Pit Grave culture formed c.3500 calBC and began to give way to the 
Catacomb Grave and Poltavka cultures c.2700 calBC. The Middle Dnieper culture and the Sub- 
Carpathian group formed by 3300 calBC, whereafter the Corded Ware culture expanded rapidly to 
the eastern Baltic and Finland on the one hand, and central Europe and the North European plain on 
the other, but did not enter Scandinavia until c.2800 calBC. At the same time, the Middle Dnieper 
culture on the one hand, and the Baltic-Belorussian Corded Ware culture on the other, expanded 
toward the Volga-Oka interfluve forming the Fat'yanovo culture. Probably c.2200 cal BC the Balanovo 
culture formed on the mid- Volga as a result of movement and adaption of Fat'yanovo communities. 
It is necessary to remember that the Volosovo culture formed in the region as early as 3650 calBC 
and existed there together with Fat'yanovo and Balanovo until assimilation led to the formation of the 
Netted Ware culture along the upper, and the Chirkovo culture along the mid- Volga, in the beginning 
of the second millennium BC. 

4.9 A systematic correlation of the Indo-European and Uralic 
linguistic groups with specific archaeological cultures 

The parent language that immediately preceded and gave birth to Proto- 
Indo-European was spoken in the Eneolithic Khvalynsk culture (500CM1500 calBC) 
of the mid- Volga forest steppe (Figure 4.5), descended from the Samara culture 
(6000-5000 calBC) of the same area. Like its predecessors, the Khvalynsk culture 
interacted with the Sub-Neolithic hunter-gatherers occupying the forests of the 
upper Volga region. Here the Lyalovo culture (5000-3650 calBC) spoke an early 
variety of Proto-Uralic, which with the Pitted Ware typical of Lyalovo culture 



soon spread to Russian Karelia in the north, to the forest steppe between the 
Dnieper and the Don in the southwest and almost to the Kama basin in the east. 
A later variety of Proto-Uralic spread rapidly with new immigrants arriving 
around 3900 calBC (with Combed Ware Style 2 and semisubterranean houses) 
from the Lyalovo culture of the upper Volga to Finland and Russian Karelia up to 
the Arctic Circle as well as to Estonia and Latvia; the entire area up to the Urals 
was united by an efficient exchange network. 

The Khvalynsk culture expanded both east and west along the border of the 
steppe and forest-steppe. In the east, Khvalynsk immigrants, after a long trek, 
eventually reached southern Siberia and founded the Afanas'evo culture 
(3600-2500 calBc) (Figure 4.5). In the west, the expansion of the Khvalynsk 
culture created the Mariupol' and Chapli type burials (5000-4500 calBc) in the 
Pontic steppe part of the Dnieper-Donets culture, in the area next occupied by the 
Srednij Stog culture (4500-3350 calBc) (Figure 4.5). 

The Khvalynsk influence reached even further west, being represented by the 
Decea Muresului cemetery of Romania (4500 calBc). The Suvorovo culture 
(4500-4100 calBc) of Moldavia and Bulgaria probably belongs to the same wave of 
immigration, for it has been considered as resulting from an early Srednij Stog 
expansion to the west. Thus both the Afanas'evo culture of central Siberia, which is 
considered to be related to the Quawrighul culture (2000-1550 calBc) of Sinkiang, 
the region where Tocharian was later spoken, and the Suvorovo culture of Bulgaria 
would both have preserved the pre-Proto-Indo-European language of the Khvalynsk 
culture. This more archaic language would have largely prevailed in the subsequent 
fusions with later Proto-Indo-European speaking immigrants, who arrived at both 
areas with wheeled vehicles after the Srednij Stog culture was transformed into the 
Pit Grave culture (Figures 4.5, 4.6: Y) c.3500-3350 calBC. The Ezero culture 
(3300-2700 calBc) of Bulgaria, which resulted from the fusion with the early Pit 
Grave immigrants, took this pre-Proto-Indo-European language in a somewhat 
changed form into Anatolia 2700 cal bc, where it became Hittite, Luwian, etc. 

The Indo-European proto-language was spoken in the Srednij Stog culture 
(4500-3350 calBc) of southern Ukraine, an offshoot of the Khvalynsk culture 
with a Dnieper-Donets culture substratum. It developed in interaction with 
the non-Indo-European speaking prosperous Tripol'e culture (5500-3000 calBc) 
(cf. Figure 4.7: F), but had contact also with the early Proto-Uralic speaking Lyalovo 
culture (5000-3650 calBc) which extended to the forest-steppe between the Dnieper 
and the Don. After acquiring wheeled transport c.3500 calBC, the Srednij Stog 
culture started expanding and disintegrating. It was first transformed into the Pit 
Grave (Yamnaya) culture (3500-2200 calBc) distinguished by kurgan burials. Expan- 
ding northward to the forest-steppe zone, early Pit Grave culture participated in the 
formation of the Middle Dnieper culture (Figures 4.6: MD; 4.7: I) by 3300 calBC 
and thus contributed to the formation of the new Corded Ware cultural complex 
(Figures 4.6, 4.7), which quickly spread over wide areas of central and northern 
Europe, appearing in the Baltic countries and southwestern Finland 3200-3 1 00 cal bc 
and a little later in the Netherlands. The language of the Corded Ware culture, 






Figure 4. 7 Middle Bronze Age cultures in eastern Europe c.2500 calBC. 

Source: Bader et al. 1987: 61, map 6. 


A: Subneolithic/Eneolithic cultures of northern Russia. B: The Corded Ware culture of the eastern 
Baltic. C: The Corded Ware culture of Finland. [The distribution shown in the map is too extensive: 
it is limited to the coastal zone, while the Subneolithic/Eneolithic zone of A extended to eastern 
Finland.] D: The Globular Amphora culture. E: The Early Corded Ware culture. F: The Late Tripol'e 
culture. G: The Catacomb Grave culture. H: The Fat'yanovo culture. [The Volosovo culture existed 
simultaneously in the same area.] I: The Middle Dnieper culture. J: The Poltavka culture. K: Areas not 
studied. The white spot in the middle of the Catacomb Grave, Poltavka and Fat'yanovo cultures is the 
area where the Abashevo culture emerged. 

Proto-Northwest-Indo-European, was still close to Proto-Indo-European, but started 
to diverge into Proto-Italo-Celtic, Proto-Germanic, and Proto-Balto-Slavic under the 
influence of the local substratum languages. In southwestern Finland and in Estonia 
(Figure 4.7: B and C), the Corded Ware superstratum was absorbed and integrated in 
the local population, which spoke late Proto-Uralic. This created a cultural boundary 
between the (southwestern) Corded Ware area and the rest of Finland and Karelia, 
and led to the differentiation between Finnic and Saami. 

The Corded Ware culture of the southern Baltic and Belorussia, whose language 
had become (pre-)Proto-Baltic, expanded to central Russia c.2800 calBC. Here it 
formed the Fat'yanovo culture (2800-1900 calBC) in the Volga-Oka interfluve 



(Figure 4.6: F; Figure 4.7: H) and the Balanovo culture (2200-1900 calBc) in the 
mid- Volga region (Figure 4.6: B). These cultures lived in symbiosis with the 
Proto-Finno-Ugric speaking peoples of the Volosovo culture (3650-1900 calBc) 
(Figure 4.7: H), which had succeeded the late Proto-Uralic speaking Lyalovo cul- 
ture (5000-3650 calBc). The Volosovo people, who continued having exchange 
relationships with their linguistic relatives in Finland and Russian Karelia, even- 
tually absorbed linguistically these Proto-Baltic speakers, whose language and 
culture deeply influenced the Finno-Ugric languages and cultures of the north- 
west. A cultural border (similar to that between Finnic and Saami) formed between 
the Proto-Volgaic speakers in the west and the unmixed Proto-Permic speakers in 
the east. Possibly under the pressure of the Fat'yanovo-Balanovo culture, part of the 
Volosovo population moved east to the Kama Valley, participating there in the 
development of the Garino-Bor culture and becoming the linguistic ancestors of 
the Ugric branch of the Uralic family (cf Krajnov 1987a,b, 1992). 

From northern Germany the Corded Ware culture expanded also to southern 
Scandinavia (Figure 4.6: S) about 2800 calBc, around which time (pre-)Proto- 
Germanic came into being. Proto-Germanic loanwords in Finnic languages are 
likely to date from 1600 calBc onwards, when the Nordic Bronze Age culture 
(1700-500 calBc) started exerting a strong influence on coastal Finland and 
Estonia. Proto-North-Saami speakers, expanding to northern Fennoscandia with 
the Lovozero Ware (1900-1000 calBc), eventually came into direct contact with 

The main sources of the earliest Aryan loanwords in Finnic and Saami are the 
Abashevo and Sejma-Turbino cultures (representing the Indo-Aryan branch) and 
the Pozdnyakovo culture (representing the Iranian branch), all to be discussed 
further. In the eighteenth century bc, both the Abashevo and the Pozdnyakovo 
culture contributed to the development of the probably Proto-Volga-Finnic 
speaking Netted Ware culture of the upper Volga, which in turn exerted a strong 
influence on eastern Finland and Russian Karelia (Figure 4.8). 

The main area of the Pit Grave culture (3500-2200 calBc) comprised the 
Proto-Indo-European homeland of the preceding Srednij Stog culture, with some 
further penetration in the west to the Danube, and an eastern extension from 
the Pontic and forest-steppe to the southern Urals, which was reached by 3000 cal bc. 
Thus the Pit Grave culture came to occupy much the same area as the 
Eneolithic Khvalynsk culture that we have suggested was linguistically pre-Proto- 
Indo-European speaking. Hence the Late Proto-Indo-European languages of this 
central group are not likely to have had non-Indo-European substrata and conse- 
quently preserved their inherited structure and vocabulary much better than many 
other groups. The differentiation of the Pit Grave culture into several subcultures 
started in 2800 calBc and was undoubtedly accompanied by linguistic differenti- 
ation, so that Proto-Graeco-Armenian developed in the Catacomb Grave culture 
of the Pontic steppes (Figure 4.7: G), and Proto-Aryan in the Poltavka culture of 
the Volga-Ural steppe (Figure 4.7: J) and the Abashevo culture of the upper Don 
forest steppe (Figure 4.7: K; Figure 4.9: K). 



Figure 4.8 Distribution of Netted Ware. 

Source: Carpelan in Carpelan and Parpola 2001, fig. 16. 


A: Emergence of Netted Ware on the upper Volga c. 1900 cal BC. B: Spread of Netted Ware by < 

cal BC. C: Early Iron Age spread of Netted Ware. 


The dialectal differentiation of Proto-Aryan into its two main branches seems 
to have started with this early cultural divergence in the eastern Pit Grave culture, 
so that people of the Poltavka culture in the southern treeless steppe spoke 
pre-Proto-Iranian, while the language of the Abashevo culture in the northern 
forest-steppe was pre-Proto-Indo-Aryan. The Poltavka culture was throughout in 
closer contact with the Catacomb Grave culture, which probably spoke Proto- 
Graeco-Armenian, while the Abashevo culture, in its quest for the copper 
of the mid- Volga region, first established contact with the more northerly 
Fat'yanovo-Balanovo and Volosovo cultures of the forest zone, where (pre-)Proto- 
Baltic and Proto-Finno-Ugric respectively were spoken. Early Aryan loanwords 
in Proto-Finno-Ugric connected with honey and wax industry, which has flour- 
ished especially in the mid- Volga region, strongly suggest that the elite language 



Figure 4.9 Sites and area of the Abashevo cultural-historical community. 

Source: Pryakhin and Khalikov 1987: 126, map 23. 


A: a cluster of six to ten habitation sites with Abashevo ceramics. B: a cluster of two to five Abashevo 
sites. C: a single Abashevo site. D: a cluster of six to ten cemeteries with kurgan burials. E: a cluster 
of two to five cemeteries with kurgan burials. F: a single cemetery with kurgan burials. G: isolated 
kurgan burials and cemeteries with a few kurgans or burials of the Abashevo type. H: cemetery with- 
out kurgan burials. I: an isolated non-kurgan burial. J: the present border of the forest-steppe. K: Area 
of the Don-Volga variant of the Abashevo culture. L: Area of the mid- Volga variant of the Abashevo 
culture. M: Area of the southern Urals variant of the Abashevo culture. 

of the Abashevo culture was Aryan, and the here proposed new etymology 
for a Proto-Volga-Permic word for 'beeswax' narrows the identification to 

The differences between the languages of the Poltavka and Abashevo cultures are 
likely to have remained on a dialectal level until 1800 calBC. The period of the 
Sintashta-Arkaim cultural expression (2200-1 800 cal bc) (Figure 4. 1 0; Gening et al. 
1992; Vasil'ev et al. 1994; Zdanovich 1997) seems to be the last phase of the rela- 
tively unified Proto- Aryan speech. Both Poltavka and Abashevo participated in the 
creation of this powerful and dynamic culture in the southern Urals which appears to 
have developed the horse-drawn chariot (Figures 4.11, 4.15: 4; Anthony and 
Vinogradov 1995; Anthony 1998). The profound influence that radiated from 
Sintashta-Arkaim into both Poltavka and Abashevo horizons is likely to have had 



kt j ^~>~fi 

f ' 

50 r r 

1 ^r 

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v 1 

• -a 



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Figure 4.10 Map of important Pre-Timber Grave and Pre-Andronovo sites of the 
Potapovka-Sintashta-Petrovka horizon (2200-1800 calBc). 

Source: Vasil'ev et al. 1994: 166, fig. 62. 


a = habitation site, b = habitation and cemetery, c = cemetery. 1 = Petrovka, 3 = Tsarev Kurgan, 
11 = Krivoe Ozera, 12 = Arkaim, 13 = Sintashta, 16 = Novyj Kumak, 23 = Potapovka, 
25 = Utevka, 28 = Pokrovsk, 32 = Vlasovka. 

Figure 4.11 An aristocratic burial at Sintashta in the southern Urals (2200-1800 calBc). 
The warrior lies in the chariot with solid wheels, beneath two horses 
accompanied by the groom or charioteer. 

Source: Gening et al. 1992: 154, fig. 72. 


some unifying effect. This could have included the transference of "satemization," 
possibly triggered by the Proto-Finno-Ugric substratum influence upon the 
pre-Proto-Indo- Aryan spoken in the Abashevo culture, over to the pre-Proto-Iranian 
spoken in the pre-Timber Grave horizon of the Late Poltavka/Potapovka and 
Pozdnyakovo cultures. Yet the palatal affricates or sibilants resulting from the 
satemization in pre-Proto-Indo-Aryan seem to have lost their palatalization in 
pre-Proto-Iranian which did not have a "palatalizing" language as a substratum. 
(For very early Finno-Ugric loanwords from pre-Proto-Iranian attesting to this 
depalatalization, cf. Koivulehto 1999: 224-6, 2001: 49.) Archaeologically, the 
pre-Timber Grave horizon in the west does not yet essentially differ from the pre- 
Andronovo horizon in the east, which in addition to the Sintashta-Arkaim itself 
(succeeded in the southern Urals by the Alakul' culture of the Andronovo complex), 
includes the Petrovka cultural expression in northern Kazakhstan. 

Proto-Greek did not become a Satem language, while Proto-Armenian did. In our 
estimate, the most likely of the various alternative scenarios presented by different 
scholars for the coming of the Proto-Greek speakers to Greece (cf. Mallory and 
Adams 1997: 243-5) is the violent break in the archaeological record between Early 
Helladic II and III, c.2200 bc; tumulus burials and the domesticated horse are found 
in Greece in the succeeding Middle Helladic period. This suggests that Proto-Greek 
descends from the Proto-Graeco-Armenian language of the early Catacomb Grave 
culture. After the separation of Proto-Greek, the Catacomb Grave culture was 
transformed into the Multiple-Relief-band (Mnogovalikovaya) Ware culture 
(c.2000-1800 calBc) (cf. Figure 4.13: 5) and its Proto-Graeco-Armenian language 
into (pre-) Proto-Armenian, which became a Satem language due to its contact with 
Proto-Iranian. The Multiple-Relief-band Ware culture extended from the Don up to 
Moldavia, and was eventually overlaid and assimilated by the Proto-Iranian speak- 
ing Timber Grave (Srubnaya) culture (1800-1500 calBc) (Figure 4.12, 4.13: 6). 
The Armenians are assumed to have come to Anatolia from the Balkans in the 
twelfth century bc, being possibly the invaders called Muski in Assyrian sources 
(cf. Mallory 1989: 33-5; Mallory and Adams 1997: 26-30). 

The final split of Proto-Aryan into its "Indo-Aryan" and "Iranian" branches 
appears to have taken place c. 1 800 bc, when the Ural river more or less became 
the border between Proto-Iranian spoken to the west of it in the Timber Grave 
(Srubnaya) culture (which evolved from the earlier pre-Timber Grave cultures), 
and Proto-Indo- Aryan spoken to the east of it in the Andronovo cultural complex 
(which evolved from the earlier pre-Andronovo cultures) (Figure 4. 12; Avanesova 
1991; Kuzmina 1994) (cf. Parpola 1998). Excepting some interference in the 
immediate neighborhood of the border area, the two branches stayed apart and 
expanded into opposite directions until the fifteenth century bc. The early 
Andronovo phase (1800-1500 calBc), principally represented by the Alakul' Ware 
of the southern Urals and western Siberia but also by early Fedorovo Ware, which 
in Siberia reached as far as the upper Yenisei, was succeeded by the late 
Andronovo phase (1500-1200 calBc), the Fedorovo horizon proper, which in 
the southeast reached as far as the Tien-shan mountains. 


Figure 4.12 Distribution of the cultures belonging to the Timber Grave (Srubnaya) and 
Andronovo horizons. 

Source: Mallory 1994-95: 252, fig. 1. 

Figure 4.13 Distribution of cultures distinguished by the Single Relief-band (Valikovaya) 
pottery. 5 = Sabatinovka and Belozerka (occupying the area formerly occu- 
pied by the Multiple Relief-band culture), 6 = Timber Grave culture, 
12 = Yaz I culture. 

Source: Chernykh 1992: 236, fig. 79. 


Some of the principal sound changes differentiating Proto-Iranian from 
Proto-Indo-Aryan (which in these respects agrees with Proto-Aryan) seem to have 
resulted from the substratum influence of the languages spoken in the areas into 
which Timber Grave culture expanded (cf Parpola 2002a,b). It has long been 
observed that the change *s > h in similar phonic contexts (between vowels and 
word-initially before a vowel, and in some other contexts, but not before and after 
stops) is a significant isogloss connecting Greek, Armenian, and Iranian languages; 
moreover, it has taken place in all these languages before their earliest historical 
records came into being. Yet from the point of view of Proto-Indo-European it is 
a relatively late change, being in Iranian posterior to the RUKI change of s > s 
(cf. Meillet 1908: 86-8). We now know that in Greek the *s > h change predates 
even the Mycenaean texts. It was proposed by Karl Hoffmann (1975: 14) that this 
Proto-Iranian sound change was still productive when the first Iranian languages 
arrived in the Indo-Iranian borderlands in the neighborhood of the Rgvedic tribes 
sometimes around the fifteenth century bc, changing the Vedic river name Sindhu 
into Avestan Hindu, Vedic Sarasvatl into Avestan Haraxvaitl, and so on. Temporally 
and areally this coincides with the introduction of the Yaz I culture (1400-1000 calBc) 
(Figure 4.13: 12) into southern Central Asia (cf. Hintze 1998). If the Catacomb 
Grave culture spoke Proto-Graeco-Armenian, it is difficult to believe that its *s > h 
change is independent from that of Proto-Iranian, for the Catacomb Grave culture 
was transformed into the Multiple-Relief-band Ware culture (2000-1 800 cal bc); the 
latter probably spoke Proto-Armenian and was in 1800 calBC overlaid and assimi- 
lated by the Timber Grave culture (Figure 4.12,4.13:5), the derivative of which from 
1500 cal bc onward spread to southern Central Asia with the simple Relief-band 
(Valikovaya) Ware (Figure 4.13). 

Similarly, the deaspiration of voiced aspirates is an isogloss connecting Iranian 
with Balto-Slavic (as well as with Albanian and Celtic, cf. Meillet 1908: 75). In 
Iranian it might have been triggered by the absorption of late Corded Ware cul- 
tures into the Timber Grave culture in the more northerly parts of eastern Europe. 

The Sintashta-Arkaim culture appears to have mainly continued the Abashevo cul- 
ture, which pushed eastward into the Siberian forest steppe in order to take posses- 
sion of the important metal ores in the Altai region. As demonstrated by Carpelan 
with reference to the evolution of the socketed spearhead (Carpelan and Parpola 
2001), this led to the formation of the Sejma-Turbino Intercultural Phenomenon 
(Figure 4.14), which mediated new types of high-quality metal tools and weapons 
along a zone connecting the Altai mountains over the Urals with northeastern 
Europe. (So far, the Sejma-Turbino Intercultural Phenomenon has been thought to 
originate in the Altai region, cf. Chernykh 1992: 215-34.) The Andronoid cultures 
and the Samus' cultural expression emerged in the forest zone of western Siberia 
under the influence of the Andronovo and Sejma-Turbino complexes. The language 
of the Sejma-Turbino complex and the Andronoid cultures continued the Finno- 
Ugric speech of that part of the bilingual Abashevo community which crossed 
the Urals and headed toward the Altai mountains, becoming the ancestors of the 
Proto-Samoyed speakers (cf. Carpelan 1999). If this is correct, the Samoyed branch 



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originally belongs to the same group of Volosovo people who came to the Kama 
basin as the Proto-Ugric speakers, although the future Samoyed speakers did not stay 
on the Kama and there develop common innovations with the Ugric branch. 

After the Timber Grave culture had developed horseback warfare, the Proto- 
Iranian speakers became very mobile and expanded from the Pontic-Caspian area 
also east of the Ural river into the Asiatic steppes, overlaying and assimilating 
there the earlier Andronovo cultures. They seem to have come to southern Central 
Asia with the Yaz I culture (Figure 4.13: 12) and to southern Siberia in the 
thirteenth century bc in the closing Fedorovo phase of the Andronovo cultural 
complex. Here the Andronovo culture was succeeded by the at least partly genet- 
ically related Karasuk culture (1200-1000 calBc), which flourished around the 
upper Yenisei, Mongolia, and the Ordos region of China. The Karasuk culture pre- 
ceded the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age of the "Scythian 
culture," when the extensive use of the saddled horse, the composite bow and the 
"animal style art" had become integral parts of steppe life (cf. Askarov et al. 
1992). Around 1000 bc, the Eurasiatic steppes from Mongolia to Hungary became 
more or less uniform culturally, and for the next thousand years and more Old and 
Middle Iranian Scythian/Saka languages were spoken there; descendants of these 
languages survive now only in the Ossete language of the Caucasus and the 
Wakhi language of the Pamirs, the latter related to the Saka once spoken in 
Khotan. The varieties of Old Iranian that in the late second millennium bc came 
from the northern steppes to southern Central Asia and Afghanistan - the regions 
where the Avestan language is assumed to have been spoken - seem to have given 
rise to most of, if not all, the other Iranian languages of today. (On the Iranian 
languages, see especially Schmitt 1989.) Cuyler Young (1985) derives the Late 
West Iranian Buff Ware, which c.950 bc appears in the regions where Median and 
Old Persian were first attested, from the Gurgan Buff Ware (c.l 100-1000 bc) of 
southern Central Asia. 

The fate of the Indo-Aryan branch beyond Central Asia lies outside the scope 
of our paper (Carpelan and Parpola 2001), but a few observations on this topic 
may be made in conclusion (this theme is dealt with extensively in Parpola 
2002a,b). It has been noted earlier that the horse-drawn chariot was probably 
developed in the Sintashta-Arkaim culture (Figure 4.11, 4.15: 4). The Proto- 
Indo-Aryan speaking rulers of the Mitanni kingdom in 1500-1300 bc were 
famed for their horse-chariotry (cf. Mayrhofer 1966, 1974). The Mitanni 
Aryans in all likelihood came to Syria from southern Central Asia and northern 
Iran, where a cylinder seal with the image of a horse-drawn chariot was 
discovered from Tepe Hissar III B (cf. Ghirshman 1977). Tepe Hissar III B-C 
represents an extension of the Bactria and Margiana Archaeological Complex 
(BMAC) (cf. Hiebert and Lamberg-Karlovsky 1992; Hiebert 1994: 177). The 
rich, semiurban, agriculturally based BMAC had local roots, but its rule seems 
to have been taken over by Aryan speakers coming from the northern steppes 
(cf. Parpola 1988; Hiebert 1993, 1995). The Proto-Indo-Aryan expansion to 
northern Iran and Syria may have been triggered by the tin trade with Central 



Figure 4.15 A horse-headed "sceptre" pin of bronze (1), two horse bits of bronze (2) and 
fragments of cheek-pieces of bone (3) from an aristocratic burial at Zardcha 
Khalifa in Zeravshan Valley, Tajikistan. The horse-headed "sceptre" has close 
parallels in the steppe, and the cheek pieces are of the same type as those 
found at Sintashta (4). Not to scale. 

Source: Bobomulloev 1997: 126, Abb. 3: 14 [= 1] and 12-13 [= 2] and 128: Abb. 4: \-H [= 3]. The 
horse-headed "sceptre" has close parallels in the steppe (see Carpelan and Parpola 2001, fig. 27.) 
Gening et al. 1992: 133, fig. 57: 7-8, 10-12 [= 4]. 

Asia in which the Assyrian merchants of Cappadocia were engaged in 
1920-1850 bc: the glyptic evidence suggests that the BMAC, too, was directly 
involved in this trade (cf. Collon 1987: 41, 142). An aristocratic grave recently 
discovered in the Zeravshan Valley of Tajikistan contained typical BMAC 
pottery (cf. Sarianidi 2001: 434), but also horse furnishings, including two 
bronze bits and two pairs of Sintashta-Arkaim type cheek pieces, as well as 
a bronze "sceptre" topped with the image of the horse (cf. Bobomulloev 1997) 
(Figure 4.15: 1-3). This find heralds the coming of Proto-Indo-Aryan speakers 
to the borders of South Asia, where the horse-drawn chariot played an important 
role in the culture of the Vedic Aryans (cf. Sparreboom 1983). 


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The case of the Bronze Age Indo-Iranians 

Carl C. Lamberg-Karlovsky 

Once upon a time, no one really knows how long ago, there lived a community 
that spoke a common language. For almost two centuries scholars have been try- 
ing to locate the time and the place, and to reconstruct the language of that commu- 
nity. The language is referred to as Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and is ancestral to 
the Germanic, Slavic, Romance, Iranian, Indie, Albanian, and Greek languages. 
Several recent works by archaeologists and linguists, involving the origins and 
eventual spread of PIE related languages from India to England, offer new per- 
spectives on this centuries long debate. Among these the work of Renfrew (1987), 
Mallory (1989), and Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1984, 1995) are of great interest. 
Renfrew, the archaeologist, contends that the PIE settlement was located in 
Anatolia c. 7000-6500 bc. Its subsequent spread he attributes to a superior tech- 
nology: their invention of agriculture. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, the linguists, sit- 
uate the homeland of the PIE a few millennia later in the nearby Caucasus. 
Mallory agrees with their fifth to fourth millennium date but places the homeland 
in the Pontic-Caspian steppe region. 

There is an agreement that the PIE community split into two major groups from 
wherever its homeland was situated, and whatever the timing of its dispersal. One 
headed west for Europe and became speakers of Indo-European (all the languages 
of modern Europe save for Basque, Hungarian, and Finnish) while others headed 
east for Eurasia to become Indo-Iranians (see Figure 5.1). The Indo-Iranians were 
a community that spoke a common language prior to their branching off into the 
Iranian and Indo-Aryan languages. Iranian refers to the languages of Iran 
(Iranian), Pakistan (Baluch), Afghanistan (Pashto), and Tadjikistan (Tadjik) and 
Indo-Aryan, Hindi and its many related languages. In this review our concern 
is with the location and dating of the Indo-Iranian community. The search for 
the Indo-Europeans, within an archaeological context, is almost as old as archae- 
ology. In 1903 Raphael Pumpelly's (1908) highly regarded excavations at Anau, 
in Turkmenistan, were motivated by a search for the Indo-Europeans. The results, 
as well as the motivation for these excavations, had a profound influence on 
V G. Childe (1926). 



I I 

Vedic Old Iranian 

I I 

Sanskrit and Prakrit Middle Iranian 

Hindustani Bengali Marathi Romany Persian Kurdish Afghan Ossetic 

Figure 5.1 Hypothetical development of the Indo-lranian languages. 

Recently, Colin Renfrew (1999) has reviewed the status of the origins and 
dispersal of the Indo-European languages. In his reconstruction he finds, "The 
Indo-lranian languages however represent ... a later development [than the earlier 
Proto-Indo-European whose emergence he places in Anatolia ca. 7000-6500 B.C.] 
and their immediate ancestor may perhaps find its material counterpart in the 
Cucuteni-Tripolye culture of the Ukraine" (Renfrew 1999: 280). After 3000 bc he 
argues for an eastward dispersal of Indo-lranian speakers. He offers no "cause" for 
this dispersal but believes it unrelated to horseriding which he believes to be a later 
second millennium adaptation. He positions the dispersal of Indo-lranian on to the 
Indian sub-continent c. 1700 bc and invokes his "elite dominance model," that is, the 
subordination of the local populations by an elite group of charioteers, as described 
in the Rigveda. This perspective, along with others, will be reviewed later. 

Elena Kuzmina (1994), in search of the homeland of the Indo-Europeans, exam- 
ines the regions from the Balkan-Carpathian-Danube to the Urals and the eastern 
steppes of Kazakhstan. She sets the period in which the PIE community existed 
as broadly between 4500 and 2500 bc and its subsequent spread in the range of 
3200-2200 bc. She favors an Indo-European homeland in the Pontic-Caspian zone 
and advocates a series of eastward migrations to the Urals. The migratory movement 
of tribes along the Don basin in the north Caspian regions, and from the western 
steppes and mountainous Crimea to the eastern steppes beyond the Urals, is seen as 
resulting in the spread of a productive subsistence economy based on cattlebreeding 
and wheat and barley farming. The large-scale migrations of the PIE, she believes, 
were motivated by reduced food resources, resulting from deteriorating climatic con- 
ditions, as well as by a conscientious search for new productive lands and modes of 
subsistence economy. The reliance upon migrations as the principal agent of social 
change was typical of archaeological interpretations throughout the Soviet period. To 
the importance of migrations can be added a blurred distinction between ethnic, lin- 
guistic, racial, and cultural entities; a concern for the isolation of racial/ethnic groups 
by craniometric methods of physical anthropology; and the use of linguistic paleon- 
tology to reconstruct the cultural development of cultural groups. 

In the fourth millennium, archaeologists identify various "tribes" of the Pit 
Grave culture, that is, the Mariupol culture, as inhabiting the regions between the 



Dnieper and the Urals. The formation of cattle breeding and the domestication of 
the horse are taken to be major fifth/fourth millennium developments that took 
place on the Russian/Ukrainian steppes. These archaeological cultures are typi- 
cally identified as Indo-European. Kuzmina believes that the horse was first inten- 
sively hunted for food, then domesticated as a food source, later used as a beast 
of burden for the pulling of wagons, and finally, toward the very end of the second 
millennium, used for riding. 

Kuzmina is insistent that the Bandkeramik farmers of the Danube played a deci- 
sive role in the spread of farming to the Dneiper basin in the fourth millennium. She 
portrays a complex picture of a multitude of seemingly distinctive archaeological 
cultures, from the Danube of southeastern Europe to the southern Urals, migrating 
and assimilating. The resultant picture is one in which Indo-European speaking 
tribes spread, following the introduction of agriculture from southeastern Europe, 
from the Pontic-Caspian zone to the southern Urals and beyond. These migrations 
are believed to be evident in a bewildering number of related archaeological cultures, 
all said to have varying degrees of affinity. No two authors, however, seem able to 
agree upon the extent of the relatedness of these cultures. Perhaps this is not sur- 
prising for there is a conspicuous absence of formal descriptions, ceramic typologies, 
chronological sequences and/or distributional analyses of the artifact types that are 
said to characterize these cultures. The principal actors on the archaeological stage are 
the Pit Grave culture(s) in the Pontic-Caspian steppe 4000-2800 bc, which evolved 
into the Catacomb Grave culture(s) 2800-2000 bc, which, in turn, was succeeded by 
the Timber Grave (Srubnaja) culture(s) 2000-1000 bc and the related Andronovo 
cultures 2000-900 bc. Each of these major archaeological cultures is divisible into 
archaeological variants and each variant has its proponent supporting their Indo-Iranian 

The Andronovo culture is almost universally implicated by Russian archaeolo- 
gists with the Indo-Iranians and we shall concentrate on them. On the basis of 
pottery type and its technology of production, the absence of pig, the presence of 
camel, horse, and cattle, the evolution of cheek pieces, and the presence of the 
chariot, Kuzmina argues for a cultural continuity of the Andronovo extending from 
2000-900 bc. There is little doubt in her mind that the Andronovo culture is 
Indo-Iranian. She attempts to verify the southern Urals as the homeland of the 
Indo-Iranians by an extensive use of ethnohistoric evidence. The Iranian speaking 
Sakas and Sauromatians, of the first millennium, are traced back to the Andronovo 
tribes, while various Indo-Iranian texts, the Rigveda and the Avesta, to mention but 
two of the many referred to, are believed to reflect the world of the Andronovo. The 
ethnohistoric parallels and the textual citations are of such general nature that they 
do not convince. Thus, in the Rigveda there is an admonition against the use of the 
wheel in the production of pottery. As Andronovo pottery is handmade this is taken 
as evidence of their Indo-Iranian identity. Ethnic and linguistic correlations are 
generally not based on rigorous methodologies; they are merely asserted. 

Kuzmina (1995) formulates a set of what she believes to be universal rules for 
"the methods of ethnic attribution." These are: (1) retrospective comparison, that 



is an ethnic identity is established for an archaeological culture by comparing it 
to a descendent culture whose ethnicity is established by written documents; (2) 
the linguistic method, which involves the ethnic attribution derived from the ret- 
rospective method and then comparing that with lexicostatistic data on the level 
and type of economy; (3) verification by establishing migration routes, the search 
for indicators of migrations, and plotting such indicators through time and space; 
(4) the employment of an anthropological method; which involves a study of 
craniometric analyses, believed to indicate a group's biological affinity; (5) veri- 
fication by linguistic contact, which involves the study of linguistic substrates and 
toponymic correlations; and finally, (6) the reconstruction of culture and world 
view ("spiritual culture") derived from an analysis of the archaeological and 
linguistic data. This "methodology" is utilized by Kuzmina for establishing the 
"ethnic indicators" of the Andronovo culture as Indo-Iranian, and, more specifi- 
cally, of the Federovo culture (a late variant of the Andronovo) as Indo-Aryan. 
The "ethnic indicators" are: (1) the absence of swine in the domestic diet; (2) the 
presence of the Bactrian camel; (3) the special significance of horsebreeding; 
(4) the special role of chariots; (5) a cult of the horse associated with burial 
contexts; (6) the technology of making vertically oriented tripartite vessels by 
coiling; (7) pots of unique quadrangular shape; (8) burials rites of cremation; 
and, (9) houses with high, gabled roofs. In an enthusiastic review of Kuzmina 's 
volume Igor Diakonoff (1995) concludes that her methodology, which juxtaposes 
linguistic, archaeological, textual, and ethnological data, allows for an ethnic 
identification of archaeological cultures. He writes, "Hence the bearers of a 
certain archaeological culture can securely be identified with the bearers of 
a language of a certain group or with their ancestors." Such optimism remains 

Although there is a consensus among archaeologists working on the steppes 
that the Andronovo culture is in the right place at the right time, and thus is to be 
considered Indo-Iranian, there is neither textual, ethnohistoric, nor archaeological 
evidence, individually or in combination, that offers a clinching argument for this 
consensus. Kuzmina's carefully constructed methodology simply cannot be 
applied to the Andronovo culture. The Andronovo culture is well over a thousand 
years distant from any textual tradition, making any linguistic and/or ethnohis- 
toric attribution extremely tenuous. Furthermore, ethnicity is permeable and 
multidimensional. It is difficult to accept the notion that for over a millennium the 
Andronovo culture remained an unchanging entity. Finally, the categories of 
"ethnic indicators" utilized by Kuzmina: horsebreeding, horse rituals, shared 
ceramic types, avoidance of pig, shared burial patterns, and architectural tem- 
plates can be used to identify the Arab, the Turk, and the Iranian; three completely 
distinctive ethnic and linguistic groups. Ethnicity and language are not so easily 
wedded to an archaeological signature. Material residues as well as the units of 
analysis in archaeology are too frequently incongruent with what we wish to 
investigate. The Arab, Turk, and Iranian may share a laundry list of general attributes 
but they are neither linguistically nor culturally similar entities. 



Kuzmina (1994) is not alone in believing that the domestication of the horse 
introduced a new stage in the evolution of civilization. On the steppes the horse 
allowed for the increasing role of cattlebreeding, the intensification of interethnic 
communication, the development of plough traction, and the use of carts and 
wagons. By the middle of the third millennium, from the Danube to the Urals, these 
new innovations were utilized by the tribes of the Pit Grave culture. The fourth 
millennium Pit Grave culture was characterized by large fortified settlements 
(Mihajlovka), four- and two- wheeled wagons pulled by bulls or horses, intensive 
cattlebreeding and farming, an extensive use of metal tools, and burials under 
mounds (kurgans) containing carts, wagons, and sacrificed horses. The migrations 
of the Pit Grave culture(s) are taken by some to be responsible for the emergence of 
stockbreeding and agriculture in distant Siberia (brought there by the related 
Afanasievo culture). Following the Pit Grave culture two great cultural entities 
flourished: the Timber Grave (Srubnaja) culture, which many archaeologists believe 
evolved from the Pit Grave culture, and the Andronovo culture, whose genesis, 
periodization, and cultural variants, are the subject of decade-long debates. 

The Andronovo culture was first described by Teploukhov in 1927 and has been 
the focus of archaeological research on the Ural/Kazakhstan steppe and Siberia 
ever since (for a review of the history of research see Jettmar 1951). Kuzmina 
(1994) is among the majority of Russian scholars who believe that the Andronovo 
forms a single cultural entity. Increasingly, however, the concept of a single 
homogenous culture covering 3 million square kilometers, and enduring for over 
a millennium, has become untenable. Archaeologists working on the steppes are 
involved in giving new definition, that is, distinctive chronological and cultural 
phases, to the cultures of the steppes (Kutimov 1999, and the papers in Levine 
et al. 1999). Similarly, the nature of Andronovo interaction, its periodization, and 
the unstructured chronology accompanying the steppic cultural-historical commu- 
nity are all subjects of heated discussion. Numerous subcultures have been 
defined: Petrov (also called Sintashta-Arkhaim-Petrov = SAP), Alakul, Fedorov, 
Sargarin, Cherkaskul, Petrovalka, Abashevo, Novokumak, etc. Differences in the 
Andronovo subcultures are based upon variations in ceramic decoration, house 
forms, settlement pattern, as well as mortuary facilities and rituals. We still lack 
a comprehensive synthesis bringing together the vast amount of information 
available and much of what has been excavated is not published. Evidence for 
variations in material culture is poorly documented, hypothetical population 
movements are asserted not demonstrated, direct contradictions of interpretations 
between different researchers are left unresolved, and there is simply no 
chronological control over the cultural variations existing within the millennium 
long expanse of the Andronovo culture. Attempts are made to identify the physi- 
cal types of the different Andronovo populations, invariably by craniometric 
means (Alekseev 1986, 1989). These studies are more closely related to racial 
typology, that is, the more recent studies that attempt to gauge degrees of biological 
affinity between populations residing in distinctive geographical settings 
(Mallaspina et al. 1998). 



The earliest of the Andronovo cultures would seem to be the Petrov which is 
closely related to, if not identical with, the Sintashta-Arkhaim culture, dated to 
the first centuries of the second millennium. The Petrov is succeeded by the 
Alakul which, in turn, is followed by the Fedorov, dated to the second half of 
the second millennium. Among the Andronovo cultures of the southern Urals, the 
Alakul and the Fedorov are most frequently assigned an Indo-Iranian identity. In 
the minority are those that believe in the multiethnic identity of the Andronovo 
tribes. Thus, V N. Chernetsov (1973) argues for an Ugric substrate among the 
Andronovo tribes and a specific Indo-Iranian identity for the Alakul tribe. Stokolos 
(1972), on the other hand, argues for an Ugric identity for the Andronovo, a local 
development for the Fedorov tribe, and an Indo-Iranian one for the Alakul tribe. 
Linguistic/ethnic identities are frequently asserted but the reasons for doing so 
are very rarely elucidated. Kuzmina (1994) accepts the cultural subdivisions of 
the Andronovo culture yet she often refers to cultural contact and migrations 
within the context of a singular Andronovo identity. She refers to Andronovo 
influence with regard to the introduction of specific axes and adzes of Andronovo 
type in distant Xinjiang. The relationships of the Andronovo with the cultures of 
Xinjiang is documented in an important paper by Jianjun and Shell (1999). 
P'yankova (1993, 1994, 1999) and Kuzmina (1994) are specific in connecting the 
second millennium agricultural communities of Central Asia, the Bactrian- 
Margiana Archaeological Complex (the BMAC), with the Andronovo culture. 
Sites of the BMAC, and the related mid-second millennium Bishkent culture, are 
seen by P'yankova as influenced by the Fedorovo tribes. Fedorovo ceramics, 
funeral rites, metal types (alloyed with tin), as well as skulls of the Andronovo 
anthropological type, are said to be present on a number of Central Asian sites. 
There is a consensus view that throughout the second millennium migratory 
movements of the Andronovo tribes resulted in contact with the Central Asian 
oases (BMAC), cultures of the Tien Shan mountains of Xinjiang, as well as with 
the indigenous tribes of the Altai, Tuva, and the Pamir Mountains. 

The "push" motivating these migratory movements from the steppes is univer- 
sally attributed to deteriorating climatic conditions. Khazanov puts it this way: 

Almost all paleoclimatologists accept that the second millennium B.C. 
was characterized by a dry climate which, it will appear, was at its driest 
at the turn of the second and first millennium B.C. . . . The fact that these 
dates coincide with the period of the emergence of pastoral nomadism, 
as has been established by archaeological data and written sources, is 
scarcely due to chance. It would appear that the dry climate was the first 
stimulus for pastoralists to abandon agriculture once and for all and 
become fully nomadic. 

(1983: 95) 

Thus, the "cause" for these large-scale migratory movements as well as for the 
emergence of pastoral nomadism is environmental: the result of increasing aridity. 



Climate is no doubt relevant but it remains unlikely that it constituted the first 
cause for either the migratory movements or for the emergence of pastoral 
nomadism. It is of interest to note that Bar-Yosef and Khazanov (1992), in a 
review of the evidence for pastoral nomadism in the ancient Near East, doubt that 
a pristine stage of socioeconomic pastoral nomadism ever existed. It is more than 
likely that the same conclusion, one that argues for the existence of a mixed econ- 
omy wherein the percentage of dependence upon farming and pastoral nomadism 
varies, also holds for the cultures of the steppes. It is increasingly evident that 
where the fauna and flora have been collected, agriculture and pastoral nomadism 
characterize all of the cultures of the steppes. 

Warrior attributes are frequently assigned to the Pit Grave culture and are 
certainly evident in the Andronovo culture. Axes, spears, bow, and arrow, a rich 
variety of dagger types, and chariots all speak of conflict and confrontation, as do 
the heavily fortified communities of "The Country of Towns" (see later). Sharp 
definitions of rank are attested in burial sites. Kuzmina (1994) suggests that 
social position was defined more by social, ideological, and ritual activities than 
by ranking based upon property ownership. Russian archaeologists view steppe 
cultures as being a "transitional type" the concept of a "military democracy," 
derived from the work of Lewis Henry Morgan, remains popular and is expressed 
by the presence of a chief, council, and a peoples' assembly. Khazanov (1979), 
while regarding "military democracy" as a specific form of transitional society, 
suitable for discussing the social forms of Central Asian pastoral nomads, has 
also advocated the adoption of the concept of a "chiefdom" as a transitional form 
preceding the origin of the state. 

The Andronovo culture has also been seen as responsible for large-scale met- 
allurgical production and as the principal agent in the exchange of metals 
throughout Eurasia in the second millennium. The recent discovery of stannite 
deposits and tin mining at Muschiston, Tadjikistan, associated with Andronovo 
sherds (Alimov et al. 1998), adds to the already considerable evidence for the 
mining of copper deposits by the Andronovo (Chernykh 1994a,b). Given the exis- 
tence of an extensive Andronovo metallurgical inventory, their association with 
the mining of both copper and tin, evidence for the production of metal artifacts 
on numerous sites, and their presumed extensive migratory movements, the 
Andronovo are frequently seen as responsible for the dissemination of metallur- 
gical technology. Some authors have even suggested that the pastoral nomads of 
the steppes, that is, the Andronovo and the even earlier Afanasiev cultures, were 
the agents responsible for the dissemination of metallurgical technology into 
China (Bunker 1998; Mei and Shell 1998; Peng 1998). 

Commenting upon the vehicle burials of the earlier Pit and Catacomb Grave 
cultures, Stuart Piggott (1992: 22) took the opportunity to mention the deplorable 
state of archaeology in the Soviet Union. His disparaging remarks refer specifi- 
cally to the use of outdated excavation techniques and publication standards. He 
points out that over the past forty years over a hundred kurgans with vehicles have 
been excavated, but fewer than half are published and then only in the briefest 



form. In this regard, of outstanding significance is the discovery, excavation, and 
publication of the site of Sintashta. Piggott's comments certainly do not pertain to 
the excellent Sintashta volume produced by V F. Gening, G. B. Zdanovich, and 

V V Gening (1992). This volume was published in the same year in which Piggott 
made his unduly harsh criticism. The settlement and cemetery of Sintashta is 
located in the southern Urals along a river of the same name. Here ten-spoked 
chariots, horse sacrifices, and human burials are radiocarbon dated to the first 
century of the second millennium bc. This volume is exceptionally well illus- 
trated and details the nature of a complex series of settlements and burials. 
Although Kuzmina (1994) identifies the third millennium Timber Grave culture 
as Indo-Iranian it is only in the following Andronovo culture, and specifically at 
the site of Sintashta, that she believes one can document a cluster of specific 
Indo-Iranian cultural traits: (1) a mixed economy of pastoralism and agriculture, 
(2) hand-made ceramics, (3) horse-drawn chariots, (4) the cultic significance of 
the horse, fire, and ancestor worship, and (5) the high status of charioteers. 

Excavations at Sintashta were initiated in 1972 under the direction of 

V I. Stepanov and resumed in 1983 under the direction of G. B. Zdanovich and 

V F. Gening. The site of Sintashta consists of a number of different features: 

1 The fortified settlement. The settlement of a sub-circular form is 140 meters in 
diameter. Its elaborate fortification system consists of an outer wall, a moat, and an 
inner wall having periodic buttresses believed to form towers. Entrance to the set- 
tlement is by way of two gates, each offering angled access and a movable bridge 
placed over a moat. The settlement is 62,000 square meters. Several 2-3 room 
houses were excavated containing hearths and constructed of timber, wattle, and 
daub, and unbaked brick. Evidence for the production of metal, as well as ceramics 
was found in some of the houses. 

2 The large kurgan. Two hundred meters to the northwest of the settlement a 
burial complex consisting of 40 graves with 60-65 inhumations was uncovered. 
The burials were placed in pits in which wooden structures were constructed and 
roofed with wooden beams. Single and multiple burials, adults and children, were 
placed within these wooden structures. The burials contained a wealth of mate- 
rial: vessels, daggers, pins, awls, needles, axes, mortars, pestles, stone tools, bone 
artifacts, etc. Five graves contained cheek pieces for horses and two "battle char- 
iots" were recovered. Twenty-five graves had evidence for the sacrifice of horses, 
cattle, sheep/goat, as well as dog. The animals, and at times only parts of the ani- 
mal, were placed directly within the burial or in associated pits. From one to six 
horses were placed in individual graves. There was little doubt in the minds of the 
excavators that differential wealth, placed in particular tombs, indicated a rank 
ordering of social strata. Significantly, several burials containing considerable 
wealth were of females and children. In some burials the excavators record the 
presence of "altars" and associated "ritual" fires. 

3 The barrow burial. This consisted of a circular barrow 32 meters in diameter 
containing three burial clusters. The first group had a great richness of grave 



offerings all placed within individual chambers containing numerous sacrificed 
horses. The second group of burials was placed within a central structure 
1 8 meters in diameter. Within this burial a large "battle chariot" was uncovered 
with a very rich inventory of material remains and numerous sacrificed animals. 
The entire complex is interpreted as the burial of an extremely important person. 
A third group of burials, consisting mostly of women and children, was placed 
within simple shallow pits at the edge of the barrow. These burials also contained 
rich grave goods and sacrificial animals. 

4 A small kurgan. This barrow was located 400 meters northwest of the Large 
Burial Complex. It is 12 meters in diameter and contained six adults and three 
children, all placed within a square wooden structure. Burial 7, a male, was par- 
ticularly rich in material remains as was burial 10, a female. Both burials con- 
tained a rich inventory of metals. The male burial contained daggers and knives, 
the female bracelets and needles. Both burials contained sacrificial animals. The 
authors suggest that this burial complex contained a number of related kin. 

5 A little barrow. This barrow was 15-16 meters in diameter and contained 
a single wooden chamber with five bodies. A large "battle chariot" was uncovered 
and near each of the deceased a rich material inventory. Four additional graves 
were found outside of the structure. Some Russian archaeologists believe that 
human sacrifice, as well as the defleshing of the dead, were components of 
Andronovo burial ritual. If so, perhaps these are candidates for such practice. 

6 A big barrow. This barrow is 85 meters in diameter and is located almost 
immediately adjacent to the Large Burial Complex. Around the barrow there is 
evidence for a 12 meters wide moat. Within the barrow there are numerous "rit- 
ual fires" surrounding two wooden structures and a large "temple" structure of 
wood. Unfortunately, this impressive barrow was looted in antiquity. The princi- 
pal burial was placed within a vaulted dromos. Over the looted burial chambers 
an impressive "temple" was constructed. 

All of the principal structures described are exceedingly well illustrated both 
by axiometric drawings as well as detailed plans of the structures and associated 
features. The book (Gening et al. 1992) is accompanied by a wealth of photo- 
graphs of which a number are in color. A second volume promises to offer a 
detailed typology and an analysis of the finds. The settlement and cemetery of 
Sintashta, whose material remains closely resemble the Petrov culture, a variant 
of the Andronovo, is usually mentioned together with the settlement of nearby 
Arkhaim as the SAP culture. In the opinion of the Zdanovichs (1995) this culture 
is characterized by a common cultural style represented by heavily fortified com- 
munities with moats and walls forming circular or sub-rectangular settlements. 
The SAP burials at Sintashta are affiliated with such settlements (Zdanovich 
1997). The burial sites consist of kurgans containing several burials situated 
around a central grave. The burial chamber consisted of several superimposed 
layers. At Sintashta a chariot was buried within a wooden construction at the 
bottom of the tomb. On the roof of the tomb were sacrificed horses; above the 



horses a single male was interred with a rich variety of prestige goods: daggers, 
axes, and ceramics. Traces of fire were discovered around the burial. At Sintashta 
the excavators interpreted the entire kurgan as a "fire temple." Gennadi Zdanovich 
(1995, 1997) who excavated both Sintashta and Arkhaim refers to the SAP 
as the "Country of Towns." Nineteen settlements of the Arkhaim type are 
known within a region 450 by 150 square kilometers. In this "Country of Towns" 
fortified settlements are spaced about 20-30 kilometers from each other. The 
horse drawn chariot, a rich inventory of weaponry, tin-bronze alloying, and 
disc-like bone cheek pieces (psalia) are all believed to be innovations of the SAP 
culture. To some the psalia suggest the presence of horseback riding. Many spe- 
cialists, including Elena Kuzmina and Marsha Levine (1999), believe that horse 
riding appears only toward the very end of the second millennium (for contrary 
opinions see later). 

The search for new metal resources, the alloying of copper with tin, an inten- 
sive dependence on cattlebreeding, the construction of fortified settlements, and 
the development of the horse-driven chariot are all important innovations of the 
"Country of Towns." Less attention has been paid to the preservation and study 
of plant remains. At Arkhaim archaeologists recovered sowing millet (Panicum 
miliaceum) and Turkestan barley {Hordeum turkestan). The excavator has also 
argued for the presence of "irrigated farming" in "kitchen gardens," narrow par- 
allel beds, 3-4 meters wide, divided by deep ditches (Zdanovich 2002: 380). 
The site of Arkhaim is the most intensively studied and occupies an area of 
20,000 square meters. [A recent booklet pertaining to the publications dealing 
with Arkhaim and related subjects list 3 8 1 published items between 1987 and 1 997 
(Zdanovich 1999a).] 

The site of Arkhaim was discovered by two schoolboys on June 20, 1987. 
Arkhaim is a circular fortified settlement approximately 150 meters in diameter. 
It is estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 people inhabited the community. 
The settlement is surrounded by two concentric defensive walls constructed of 
adobe and clay placed within a log frame. Within the circle, and abutting the 
defensive walls, are some sixty semi-subterranean dwellings. Each house con- 
tains hearths, cellars, wells, and some have metallurgical furnaces. A drainage 
gutter with water-collecting pits was uncovered in the circular street that sur- 
rounds the inner portion of the settlement. In the center of the settlement was a 
rectangular "plaza." Entrance into the settlement was effected by four elaborately 
constructed angular passages, constructed over moats, and terminating in an elab- 
orate gate. Clearly, access for the unfamiliar would have been very difficult. 
Today, larger fortified settlements with far more impressive stone architecture are 
known but remain unexcavated. Settlements in the "Country of Towns" are inter- 
preted as military forts, proto-cities, and as ceremonial and religious centers. Russian 
archaeologists believe that the SAP culture consisted of three classes: military 
and religious leaders, nobles, and peasants. Today among Russian archaeologists 
there is a preference to refer to this culture as a "chiefdom" rather than as a "military 
democracy" (Koryakova 1996). 



The discovery and "saving" of Arkhaim is of special significance. Initially, the 
site of Arkhaim was to be flooded by the construction of a reservoir to be built by 
the Ministry of Water Resources of the USSR. Construction of the reservoir was 
scheduled for completion in 1989 which would have completely submerged 
Arkhaim. In 1989, with the rapid dissolution of the USSR and the concomitant 
rise of regional authorities, the Ministry of Water Resources began to lose its 
authority. In April 1991 the Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation 
decided to halt the construction of the reservoir and make Arkhaim and its envi- 
rons a protected site. In subsequent years a scientific campus was built, as were 
tourist facilities, and, in 1999 an impressive Museum of Natural History and Man 
was under construction. Today the site of Arkhaim has become a center for fol- 
lowers of the occult and super-nationalist Russians. It has become a theater of, 
and for, the absurd and dangerous. It is advocated by some that Arkhaim was 
planned to reproduce a model of the universe; it was built by the legendary King 
Yima, as described in the Avesta, the sacred book of the Persians and Zoroastrians 
(Medvedev 1999); it was a temple-observatory comparable to Stonehenge; it 
was the birthplace of the prophet Zoroaster who at death was buried at Sintashta; 
it is a model for contemporary society of harmonious relationships between 
culture and the natural environment; it is the homeland of the ancient Aryans; and 
the oldest example of a Slavic state. Arkhaim also is identified with Asgard, the 
secret homeland of the Germanic god Odin; it is the "city of the Aryan hierarchy 
and racial purity." The swastika, which appears incised on pottery from Arkhaim, 
is proclaimed as the symbol of Aryanism by Russian ultranationalists. Russian 
astrologers have also been attracted to Arkhaim. In 1 99 1 a prominent astrologer, 
Tamara Globa, during the summer solstice at Arkhaim, announced that the mem- 
ory of the site was preserved by the Indian Magi and its rediscovery was prophe- 
sied by the medieval astrologer Paracelsus. Arkhaim attracts up to 15,000 
"tourists" during annual holidays, particularly in the spring and summer. They 
come to pray, tap energy from outer space, worship fire, be cured of dis- 
ease, dance, meditate, and sing. The thousands of visitors are a ready source of 
income supporting Dr Zdanovich's research. "We Slavs," he wrote, "consider our- 
selves to be new arrivals, but that is untrue. Indo-Europeans and Indo-Iranians 
had been living there [in the southern Urals] since the Stone Age and had been 
incorporated in the Kazaks, Bashkirs, and Slavs, such is the common thread link- 
ing us all" (quoted in Shnirelman 1998: 37, 1999). In a word, the Slavs have been 
in the southern Urals since time immemorial, they are as primordial as all other 
modern ethnicities inhabiting the region. Shnirelman (1995: 1) writes in 
"Alternative Prehistory" that nationalist concerns in the former USSR are creating 
"an explicitly ethnocentric vision of the past, a glorification of the great ances- 
tors of the given people, who are treated as if they made the most valuable contri- 
bution to the culture of all humanity." The wave of nationalism in Russia has given 
birth to numerous publications of highly dubious merit. Thus, Kto Oni i Otkuda 
{Who are They and Where From 1 998) is a publication of the Library of Ethnography 
and sanctioned by the Russian Academy of Sciences. In this monograph one 



can read that the original homeland of the Vedas was in the Arctic and that the 
language with the closest affinity to Sanskrit is Russian. The dissolution of 
the Soviet empire has given rise to a heightened nationalism which, in turn, 
projects a mythical and majestic Slavic past. The archaeology of Arkhaim is 
playing an important role in the construction of nationalist myths. Today, wholly 
unwarranted claims are made for Slavs as the original Aryans, for the Slavic 
language as closest to Sanskrit, for a Slavic-Aryan origin in the Arctic, for 
the superiority of the Slavic-Aryans, etc. In discussing ethnic formation Geary 
states that: 

The second model of ethnogenesis drew on Central Asian steppe peoples 
for the charismatic leadership and organization necessary to create 
a people from a diverse following . . . these polyethnic confederations 
were if anything more inclusive than the first model [in] which ethnic 
formation followed the identity of a leading or royal family being able to 
draw together groups which maintained much of their traditional 
linguistic, cultural and even political organization under the generalship 
of a small body of steppe commanders. The economic bases of these 
confederations was semi-nomadic rather than sedentary. Territory and 
distance played little role in defining their boundaries, although 
elements of the confederation might practice traditional forms of 
agriculture and social organization quite different from those of the 
steppe leadership. 

(1999: 109) 

In a similar vein one might imagine the Andronovo consisting of "polyethnic 
confederations," which took varying archaeological expressions: Alakul, Petrov, 
Abashevo, "The Country of Towns," etc., each maintaining its "traditional 
linguistic, cultural, and even political organization." The identification of the 
Andronovo as a singularity, in both a cultural and linguistic sense, transforms the 
multiple and the complex into the singular and simple. In considering the history 
of the peoples of the steppes, whether it be the confederation of the Huns, Goths, 
or Sarmatians, Patrick Geary is at constant pains to point out that "polyethnicity 
was obvious" and that "Ethnic labels remained significant . . . but they designated 
multiple and at times even contradictory aspects of social and political identity" 
(Geary 1999: 117, 125). It is difficult to imagine, and there is neither archaeo- 
logical nor textual evidence to suggest that the Bronze and Iron Age steppe 
nomads were politically more centralized and/or ethnically more monolithic, than 
they were when first mentioned by Greek and Roman writers, who were well 
aware of their diversity. 

There are two contending hypotheses for the origins of the SAP culture: (1) it 
is an indigenous culture, with its roots in the earlier Botai culture of northern 
Kazakhstan (see Kislenko and Tatarintseva 1999), or (2) its formation is the result 
of a migration from the west [i.e. from the Abashevo and/or the Mnogovalikovo 



culture(s) (themselves variants of the Timber Grave culture)]. Kuzmina appears to 
favor a western origin as forming "the decisive stimulus for the formation of the 
Andronovo culture" while the Zdanovichs appear to favor indigenous roots. The 
questions of origins are severely hampered by an inadequate chronological frame- 
work. There is a poverty of radiocarbon dates and a plethora of archaeological 
cultures, all interpreted as variants of the Andronovo culture, spread over a vast 
distance and extending over a millennium. Recent research in Kazakhstan is able 
to trace an indigenous series of archaeological cultures from the Mesolithic to the 
Atbasar culture of the Neolithic; all evident prior to the diffusion of the Andronovo 
from the west (Kislenko and Tatarintseva 1999). 

The hypothesis that the Andronovo culture, or more specifically one of its sub- 
types, are Indo-Iranians has met with wide acceptance among Russian archaeol- 
ogists. Arguments focus upon which variant is Indo-Iranian: is it the SAP, or the 
Alakul, or the Fedorov? If, on the one hand, the SAP culture stems from the 
indigenous northern Kazakhstan roots (Botai culture), as believed by some, then 
the Indo-Iranians were present in the region as early as 2900 bc (uncorrected 
radiocarbon years from Botai). If, on the other hand, the Indo-Iranian culture was 
introduced from the west, sometime in the first half of the second millennium, as 
believed by Kuzmina and a majority of Russian scholars, then there is both an 
absence of evidence for such migrations and an insufficient time period to allow 
for them to extend over the vast territories that the Indo-Iranians are believed to 
have occupied. 

Before the discovery of the SAP complex the Alakul culture of southern 
Kazakhstan was thought to be the earliest Andronovo culture, its "classic" expres- 
sion, and, of Indo-Iranian identity. Alakul settlements are small, usually consisting 
of no more than 2-4 houses. These houses, however, are on average considerably 
larger, often in excess of the 200 square meters of the earlier SAP houses. Alakul 
houses are subdivided into several rooms by interior walls made of logs, wattle, 
and daub, or sod bricks. There is a considerable difference between SAP mortu- 
ary practices and those of the Alakul: large central burials become rare, horse sac- 
rifice declines, and the richness and variety of grave goods diminish. Internment 
is usually on the left side. Weapons and tools are rarely placed in the graves but 
decorative items, pendants, bracelets, etc., abound. Burials are frequently accom- 
panied with sheep/goat. And, finally, in the last half of the second millennium, 
Alakul burials provide evidence of cremation. Distinct similarities between the 
Alakul (classic Andronovo) and the Timber Grave culture to the west have long 
been argued (Gimbutas 1965) and continue to be affirmed (Obydennov and 
Obydennov 1992). The Timber Grave culture is, in turn, seen as descended from 
the Pit Grave culture which is frequently cited as the "original" Indo-Iranian 
culture (Anthony 1991). In this view an Indo-Iranian presence is first detected in 
the Pit Grave culture, continues within the context of the Timber Grave culture, 
which influences, through migration, the formation of the Andronovo culture. 
Among the Andronovo variants some scholars identify the Alakul while others 
offer the SAP as Indo-Iranian. Physical anthropologists add to this confusion. 



Alexeev (1967) believes the Andronovo cranial type indicates a common 
pre-Andronovo origin, probably from the west; while Gerasomov (1955), studying 
the same materials, concludes that the Andronovo were descended from the 
Afanasiev culture, suggesting a western Siberian origin. 

The identification of the SAP as Indo-Iranian is buttressed by a number of advo- 
cates, including Kuzmina (1994) in her highly influential book. Kuzmina offers 
numerous parallels between the archaeological record and the Rigvedic and Avestan 
texts. The parallels drawn are, at best, of a most general nature and do not convince, 
that is, Andronovo houses were large (50-300 square meters), capable of accom- 
modating extended families. A "reading" of the Indo-Iranian texts, the Avesta 
and Rigveda, attests to the existence of extended families, thus, the Andronovo 
were Indo-Iranian. For a more thorough reconstruction of the Indo-Iranian world, 
as reconstructed from the Avesta, see Windfuhr (1999). Kuzmina 's perspective is 
shared by a majority of Russian archaeologists. She advocates a migration of the 
SAP from the west, bringing with them a complex social order and horse-drawn 
wagons. The SAP come into contact with an indigenous and more egalitarian 
culture, the descendants of the Tersek-Botai culture (Kiselenko and Tatarsineva 
1999). The Tersek-Botai peoples, it is suggested, spoke Ugrian languages. With 
the passing of time further migrations coming from the west, combined with 
regional diversification, led to the formation of the Alakul and Fedorovo cultures 
(variants of the Andronovo), whose migrations, in turn, impacted upon the peoples 
of Central Asia and distant Xinjiang (Jianjun and Snell 1999). The extensive 
migrations of mobile pastoralists throughout the steppes, beginning c.2200 bc, is 
attributed, as noted earlier, to an increase in "desertification" and "steppifica- 
tion." The evidence from phytoliths, soil chemistry, and pollen analyses seem 
to converge in pointing to an increasing aridity throughout the first half of the 
second millennium. This resulted in expansive migrations in search of pasturage 
(the evidence is well summarized by Hiebert 1994). 

There is still a great deal of work to be done before the identification of the 
Indo-Iranians becomes a viable archaeological exercise. The following points are 
relevant conclusions: 

1 There is absolutely NO archaeological evidence for any variant of the 
Andronovo culture either reaching or influencing the cultures of Iran or 
northern India in the second millennium. Not a single artifact of identifiable 
Andronovo type has been recovered from the Iranian Plateau, northern India, 
or Pakistan. 

2 A great deal is made of the horse as an attribute of the Indo-Iranians. There 
is NO zooarchaeological evidence for the presence of the horse in Iran until 
the last centuries of the second millennium bc, and even then such finds are 
exceedingly rare. In South Asia the first appearance of the horse is at Pirak, 
Pakistan, and dated to c.1700 bc (Jarrige and Santoni 1979). 

3 There is a tendency to treat the Andronovo as a single monolithic entity, 
ignoring the chronological and cultural variations. Recent attempts to 



differentiate variants of the Andronovo have done much to clarify and much 
to confuse. It is by no means clear what, for instance, are the specific vari- 
ants in material culture that differentiate the SAP from the Alakul, or for that 
matter of any two variants of the Andronovo from each other. 

4 The chronological situation is completely out of control. Save for a few 
carbon- 14 dates from Sintashta, the SAP exists in a floating chronology (how- 
ever see Gorsdorf et al. 1998 for the beginnings of a radiocarbon chronol- 
ogy). How long was the site of Arkhaim inhabited? What was the 
chronological duration of the "Country of Towns?" What was the date of the 
Alakul and/or Fedorov influence in Central Asia, that is, in the BMAC and 
the later Bishkent culture? The dating of the Andronovo culture, with respect 
to the chronology of its geographical distribution and cultural variation is 
simply non-existent. 

5 If the chronological sequence is "floating" so is the careful explication of the 
cultural variants of the Andronovo. Frequently researchers emphasize local, 
western, and even eastern influences upon the Andronovo by focusing upon 
a single attribute, that is, burial pattern without considering temporal or typo- 
logical variations. Typological parallels are drawn in the absence of chrono- 
logical control and chronological synchronisms made on the basis of 
assumed typological parallels. The fact that sites appear to be of relatively 
short duration and are said to rarely overlap offers a considerable challenge 
in the building of a chronological sequence. A fine, but rare, effort toward 
establishing a relative chronology in the southern Urals and adjacent eastern 
steppes, is put forth by Zdanovich (1984). Kuzmina offers a date for the 
Petrov culture on the basis of parallels to the burial methods and psalia found 
at Mycenae and in the destruction levels at Troy. On this basis the conven- 
tional dates for the Petrov are given as seventeenth to sixteenth century bc. 
Yet, the carbon- 14 dates for the supposedly contemporary Sintashta cemetery 
cluster c. 1900 bc. The Sintashta chariots are by no means the earliest ones 
known. There are several sealing impressions depicting a chariot and driver 
in a Mesopotamian Early Dynastic III glyptic, c.2500 bc (Littauer and 
Crouwel 1979; Green 1993: 60). Uncalibrated radiocarbon dates for the 
Petrov culture routinely fall into the end of the third millennium; if calibrated, 
they would move to the first half of the third millennium. Clearly, the nascent 
radiocarbon chronology is indicating a substantially greater antiquity for the 
Andronovo than the present conventional relative chronology We shall see 
that an identical situation existed in the initial phases of dating the BMAC in 
Central Asia. The continued dismissal of mid-third millennium radiocarbon 
dates for the Andronovo culture, and an insistence on the present relative 
chronology, is entirely counterproductive (Chernykh 1992). 

While it is clear that language, culture, and ethnicity are not isomorphic there 
are times in which one can offer a reasonably convincing argument for correla- 
tions. There is, however, no convincing evidence that allows one to make an 



ethnic or linguistic, affiliation for any cultural variant of the Andronovo culture. 
Arguments, one of many "ethnohistoric" proposed by Kuzmina, suggest that the 
large houses of the Andronovo-Timber Grave cultures are prototypes of large 
Avestan houses. General similarities in material culture and vague parallels in 
social behavior (i.e. mortuary ritual and emphasis upon horses), drawn from the 
Avesta, Rigveda, and other "ethnohistoric" sources typify the manner by which 
Kuzmina relates the Andronovo with the Indo-Iranians. Even more tenuous are 
the suggestions advanced by the Genings and Zdanovich. In the Sintashta volume 
they correlate specific Andronovo subcultures and identify them with Indo- 
Iranian tribes. With the recognition of Andronovo subcultures the identification 
of specific ones as Indo-Iranian has become an industry (Vasilyev et al. 1995). 
Needless to say there is no consensus on the ethnicity of any single Andronovo 
subculture. It has yet to be demonstrated that language expansions can be traced 
through similarities in material culture or that a widely distributed culture, exist- 
ing for a millennium and consisting of substantial variation, means that a popu- 
lation shares a common or related ethnicity. There are three conclusions that can 
be advanced concerning the identity of the Andronovo culture (or any of its spe- 
cific variants) with the Indo-Iranians: (1) they are "in the right place at the right 
time." This argument, frequently implied offers circumstantial evidence but 
remains thoroughly unconvincing; (2) parallels between the material culture and 
the environment of the Andronovo are compared to commentaries in the Rigveda 
and Avesta and are taken to confirm the Indo-Iranian identity of the Andronovo. 
The parallels are far too general to offer confidence in these correlations; (3) the 
later Scythians (Saka), known to be Iranian, occupy the same territory and share 
generalized similarities in material culture with the Andronovo. Thus, the ances- 
tral Andronovo must be Indo-Iranian. Similarity in culture does not necessarily 
mean identity in language. As often as one recites the mantra that "language, cul- 
ture, and 'race' are independent variables" as often the mantra is forgotten or 
ignored. The second chapter of the Indo-Iranian story involves its split into two 
branches: the Vedic or Indo-Aryan branch, inhabiting India and the Old Iranian, 
which moved onto the greater Iranian Plateau. Linguists generally place the date 
for the split of Indo-Aryan and Iranian to the late third millennium and/or 
the first part of the second millennium bc. Before turning to another archaeo- 
logical culture identified as Indo-Iranian, one completely different from the 
Andronovo, it is relevant to identify the presence of the first written texts in an 
Indo-European language. As we shall see these texts heavily influenced the 
conceptions of Victor Sarianidi as to the geographical origins and Indo-Iranian 
identity of the BM AC. 

In the fifteenth century bc in a treaty between a Hittite and Mitanni king the 
latter swears an oath by a series of gods who are major Indie deities: Mi-it-ra 
(Indie Mitra), Aru-na {Varuna), In-da-ra (Indra), and Na-sa-at-tiya. In another 
text a man named Kikkuli, counts from one to nine in Indie numerals and is 
referred to as an assussanni (Sanskrit asvasani-), a trainer of horses and chariotry 
And in yet another text, Indo-Aryan words are used to describe the color of horses. 



Finally, the Mitanni word "marya" is precisely the same word as the "marya" 
referred to in the Rigveda and meaning "warrior." This evidence leads to the 
consensus view, namely, that an Indo-Aryan speaking elite of chariot warriors 
imposed themselves on a native Hurrian population to form a ruling dynasty that 
endured for several centuries. The date of the appearance of these Indie speakers 
bears on the origins and expansion of the Indo-Iranians. By the sixteenth/fifteenth 
centuries bc, as evidenced in the earlier texts from northern Syria and Turkey, a 
separate Indo-Aryan language already had diverged from a putative Indo-Iranian 
linguistic entity. Thus, the split of the Indo-Iranian languages (into Iranian and 
Indo-Aryan) must predate the fifteenth/fourteenth centuries bc, perhaps by as 
much as 500 years. Roman Ghirshman (1977) attempted to identify the arrival of 
the Indo- Aryans in the region of the Hurrians (northern Syria) by affiliating them 
with a certain type of widely distributed ceramic - Habur Ware, as well as with 
black and grey wares. This untenable argument was elegantly dispelled by Carol 
Kramer (1977) in her essay on "Pots and People." 

The ethnic and linguistic identity of the Andronovo remains elusive but much 
discussed. A great deal is made of the importance of the horse within the 
Andronovo cultural context. But when did they actually begin to ride the horse? 
Was the development of horse-riding a stimulus to the development of multi-animal 
(sheep, goat, cattle) pastoralism? What was their relative dependence upon 
pastoral transhumance compared to sedentary agriculture? And what plants did 
they harvest? In the absence of settlement archaeology, save for the newly dis- 
covered "Country of Towns" we have virtually no understanding of the demo- 
graphic setting on the steppes. Khazanov (1983: 333) contrasts the dramatic 
increase in the animals a shepherd can control when riding horseback, up to 
2,000 sheep, compared with less than 500 on foot. When did pastoral transhumance 
on horseback emerge? And to what extent did the fragile environment of the 
steppes, with such critical factors as severe winters, the relative unavailability of 
water, and the failure of rainfall in as many as six out of ten years, contribute to 
the importance of out migration (diffusion)? (Khazanov 1983). These are but sev- 
eral fundamental questions that remain to be answered. High on that list is: When 
did horseback riding begin? David Anthony (2000) supports an early date, late 
fourth/early third millennium, while Levine (1999) finds conclusive evidence 
only in the late second millennium. Interestingly, in Mesopotamia the King of 
Mari, c. 1800 bc, is admonished not to ride a horse, lest he jeopardize his status: 
"You are the King of the Hanaeans and King of the Akkadians. You should not 
ride a horse. Let my king ride a chariot or on a mule and he will thereby honor 
his head" (Malamat 1989). 

A major contender for Indo-Iranian identity, and a relatively new actor on the 
archaeological stage of Central Asia, is a cultural complexity of great signifi- 
cance. The BMAC was discovered and named by Victor Sarianidi (1976: 71) fol- 
lowing his excavations in Afghanistan in the late 1970s (for a bibliography of 
significant BMAC publications see Klochkov 1999). Bactria was the name given 
by the Greeks to the regions of northern Afghanistan, the territory around the 



Amu Darya River, while Margiana (Margush) was a Persian province of the 
Achaemenid empire, whose capital was Merv, in present-day Turkmenistan. 
Victor Sarianidi (1998a,b) in two important volumes not only has identified the 
BMAC as Indo-Iranian but isolated, within the archaeological record, what he 
believes to be distinctive Proto-Zoroastrian cultural characteristics. 

In the mid-1970s Soviet archaeologists undertook extensive surveys and exca- 
vations in Afghanistan. Following five years of excavation at the important site of 
Delbarjin (Kushan/Buddhist) a new publication was initiated specifically to 
report on these excavations and surveys: Drevnii Baktria (Ancient Bactria). In the 
first volume Sarianidi (1976) published his excavations in the Dashly Oasis. In 
the following year (Sarianidi 1977) he published the first extensive synthesis of 
his work in Afghanistan. His excavations at Dashly III uncovered a "rotund build- 
ing" which was interpreted as a temple. The Dashly III culture was reconstructed 
along Mesopotamian lines; there was a temple community presided over by a 
"chief priest," which eventually gave way to kingship as the communal sector 
became privatized. The large round building, which had an outer buttressed wall, 
was the focus of the community, with radial streets leading to the "temple." The 
"temple," with dozens of rooms indicating domestic functions, was believed to 
house 150-200 people. Numerous bronze compartmented seals were recovered 
but no sealings. The seals were attributed the same function as in Mesopotamia; 
for securing doors as well as stored and transported goods. Sarianidi concluded 
that the Dashly III settlements were self-sufficient communities, managed as tem- 
ple estates. He specifically draws a parallel between them and the Uruk commu- 
nity of Mesopotamia. Already in this first publication he rather cautiously, a 
caution that will later be abandoned, suggests that at Dashly III there are a few 
elements that find ready parallel in the Rigveda and Avesta: cattlebreeding, fire 
temples, circular and rectangular fortresses, animal burials, and the presence of 
camel (Sarianidi 1984). 

There are fundamental differences between Sarianidi 's (1990) first book, 
Drevnosti Strani Margush detailing the BMAC, and his most recent publication, 
Margiana and Protozoroastrianism (1998b). In many respects Drevnosti Strani 
Margush is both more extensively illustrated and more fully documented than his 
later volume. Excavations at Takhirbai (1000-750 bc), Togolok 21 (1250-1000 bc), 
Gonur [Dashly III/Namazga VI] (1500-1250 bc), and Kelleli [= Hissar III] 
(1700-1500 bc) offer an extraordinarily rich documentation of material remains, 
architectural exposure, as well as a chronological sequence. The very extensive 
horizontal exposure on each of these sites, a signature of Soviet archaeology, is 
almost as impressive as the monumental architecture discovered on each of the set- 
tlements, identified as either a temple, fort, or palace. The site of Gonur, believed 
by Sarianidi to be the "capital" of the BMAC in Margiana throughout the Bronze 
Age, contains all three and remains the focus of Sarianidi 's archaeological excava- 
tions to this day. The palace at North Gonur measures 150 X 140 square meters, the 
temple at Togolok is 140 X 100 square meters, the fort at Kelleli 3 is 125 X 125 
square meters, while the house of a local ruler at Adji Kui is 25 X 25 square meters. 



Each of these formidable structures has been fully excavated - plus a great deal 
more. The temples, forts, and palaces all have impressive fortification walls, 
gates, and buttresses. It is not always clear why one structure is identified as 
a temple and another a palace. There is no clear signature, architectural template, 
within the BMAC. In fact, each building is unique, save for the fact that all are 
fortified by impressive walls and gates. Although Sarianidi offers ample illustra- 
tions he rarely offers specific provenience, room, or feature, in which an object 
was recovered. However, when a complex feature is excavated as in the so-called 
"priestess burial" at Togolok 1, where two bulls and a driver may have been sac- 
rificed he offers a full contextual analysis. The majority of the objects often are 
ascribed simply to a major feature, that is, the palace at North Gonur. In Drevnosti 
Strani Margush the author advocates a late second millennium chronology for the 
BMAC, derives its origin as the result of a migration from southeastern Iran, and 
identifies it as Indo-Iranian; with objects, beliefs, and rituals ancestral to later 
Zoroastrianism. An impressive series of illustrations offer specific parallels in the 
pottery, seals, stone bowls, and metal types found in the BMAC with sites in 
Baluchistan, as well as with the specific sites, that is, Tepe Yahya, Shahdad and 
the Jhukar culture of late Harappan times. There is absolutely no doubt, as amply 
documented by Pierre Amiet (1984), of the existence of BMAC material remains 
recovered from Susa, Shahdad and Tepe Yahya. There is, however, every reason 
to doubt that because these parallels exist that the BMAC originates in south- 
eastern Iran. This is extremely unlikely for the BMAC materials are intrusive in 
each of the sites on the Iranian Plateau as they are also on sites of the Arabian 
Peninsula (Potts 1994). 

In Drevnosti Strani Margush (p. 62) and Margiana and Protozoroastrianism 
(p. 42) Sarianidi addresses the nature and extent of cultural influence that char- 
acterized the BMAC and the steppe cultures, the Andronovo. Even though steppe 
ceramics have been found on the sites of Togolok 1 and 21, Kelleli, Taip, Gonur, 
and Takhirbai, Sarianidi is adamant in opposing any significant Andronovo influ- 
ence on the BMAC. Kuzmina and Lapin (1984) suggest that drought caused the 
drying up of the delta of the Murghab River, making possible an incursion from 
the steppes by the Andronovo warrior tribes and an end to the BMAC. By the 
middle of the second millennium all BMAC sites are abandoned - the reason(s) 
accounting for this dramatic process and/or event remain entirely elusive. 
Sarianidi finds neither merit nor evidence for attributing the steppe culture(s) as 
the agents that brought about the abandonment. In Drevnosti Strani Margush he 
states, "Contrary to the archaeological evidence is the statement that pottery of 
steppe character was 'plentiful' on the sites of south Turkmenistan. Pottery of the 
Andronovo type do not exceed 100 fragments in all of south Turkmenistan" (my 
translation p. 63). As rigorous approaches to data retrieval were not practised such 
a figure must be merely impressionistic. 

The question of the nature and the extent of interaction that characterized the 
steppic cultures, the generic Andronovo culture, and the sedentary farmers of 
Central Asia, specifically the BMAC, is of fundamental importance. As we have 



noted both archaeological entities are distinctive in their material culture, both are 
chronologically synchronous, and both have been identified as Indo-Iranian. 
Decades ago, in his excavations atTakhirbai 3, V M. Masson (1992) suggested that 
in the first half of the second millennium a high degree of interaction character- 
ized the relations of the steppe nomads and the sedentary farmers of Bactria and 
Margiana. This has been resoundingly confirmed by the highly productive archae- 
ological surveys undertaken recently by the Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys in 
Margiana (Gubaev etal. 1998). Erdosy (1998: 143) has recently observed that "the 
greatest desideratum is a clearer understanding of spatial relationships, the one 
area of archaeological research that has been seriously neglected by Soviet schol- 
arship." The archaeological surveys in the Murghab have documented hundreds of 
settlements of the BMAC, post-BMAC, and sites containing what the archaeolo- 
gists refer to as "Incised Coarse Ware" (ICW). The ICW (readily identified as a 
generic Andronovo ceramic) appears on sites of BMAC, post-BMAC, as well as 
on settlements exclusively containing ICW. There can be little doubt that the inter- 
action of peoples from the steppes with their sedentary Central Asian neighbors 
was both extensive and intensive. The fortified settlements of the "Country of 
Towns" and the well fortified settlements of the BMAC suggest that the interac- 
tion was not always peaceful. In a more recent publication Sarianidi (1999) 
acknowledges this interaction and offers a new slant: "Andronovo type vessels 
[were found] only in the rooms that were used for the preparation of soma-haoma 
type drinks in Margiana." Thus, Sarianidi concludes that the BMAC are Indo- 
Aryan and the Andronovo are Iranian. Both are proto-Zoroastrian sharing common 
cultic rituals. Clearly, the Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys in the Murghab indi- 
cate that the region was what Mary Louise Pratt (1992: 6-7) calls a "contact zone," 
"the space in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into 
contact with each other and establish on-going relations, usually involving condi- 
tions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict," relations character- 
ized by "radically asymmetrical relations of power." The relationship that 
characterized the peoples from the steppes with BMAC, and post-BMAC cultures, 
remains undefined. The fact that both fortified their settlements is suggestive. 
Again, the surveys in the Murghab suggest that archaeological cultures, no less 
than modern ones, are not separated "cultures" or "ethnic groups," or what Geertz 
(2000: 234) calls "lumps of sameness marked out by limits of consensus" but 
permeable mosaics of interacting similarities and differences. 

The Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys in the Murghab have offered a resounding 
confirmation of the complex interaction that characterized the region throughout 
the Bronze Age. Evidence for the interaction of settled farmers and the Andronovo 
culture also come from the excavations in southern Tadjikistan at the site of 
Kangurttut (Vinogradova 1994). In this settlement archaeologists recovered 
Andronovo ceramics, knives, and daggers, including molds for the production of 
classic Andronovo type daggers. The site is radiocarbon dated to the middle of the 
second millennium and said to be associated with the Mollali phase of the 
Sapalli culture, that is the very end of the BMAC. The excavator suggests that 



the "infiltration process of the Andronovo tribes to the south was relatively slow" 
and that it was characterized by a peaceful process, such that a "settling down and 
dissolution of steppe population into that of farming oases could take place" 
(Vinogradova 1994: 46). 

The transition to the Iron Age is one of both continuity and discontinuity. In the 
second half of the second millennium the Yaz culture emerges, the earliest of Iron 
Age cultures, and with it an increasing sedentarization of nomads, the emergence 
of monumental architecture, newly founded settlements, and the emergence of 
painted pottery with parallels to Susa in Iran and Pirak in Baluchistan. Within the 
Iron Age, and its widely distributed grey wares, the Yaz culture is frequently cited 
as a candidate for Indo-Iranian identity (Young 1967; Ghirshman 1977). 

The extensive metallurgy of the steppes as well as that of the BMAC is well 
documented. The types that characterize each of the regions are entirely distinc- 
tive. Sarianidi (1990) offers an important analysis of BMAC metals and an appen- 
dix on the analysis of specific botanical remains. In her study of the metals, 
N. N. Terekhova concludes that techniques of casting and forging were utilized in 
the production of objects manufactured from copper - arsenides, native copper 
and copper-tin bronze. In the latter category twenty-six objects were analyzed 
having 1-10 percent tin: N. R. Meyer-Melikyan analyzed floral remains recovered 
from the monumental complex at Togolok 21. "The samples are floral remains: 
fragments of stems, often with leaves, pollen grains, anterophors, microsporan- 
gia, and scraps of megasporia skin and parts of fruit" (p. 203) which were found 
in large pithoi in rooms 23 and 34. She concludes that the remains belong to the 
Ephedra genus. Sarianidi is thus afforded the opportunity of following a number 
of scholars who believe that ephedra was the essential ingredient in the sacred 
drink, haoma or soma. This mildly intoxicating drink is referred to in the sacred 
books of the Indo-Iranians: the Rigveda and the Avesta. As previously noted pres- 
ence of ephedra at Gonur is taken by Sarianidi as further testimony for both 
Indo-Iranian and Protozoroastrian identity of the BMAC. On numerous sites 
Sarianidi identifies altars, fire temples, the importance of fire in mortuary rituals, 
fractional burials, burials in vessels, cremation, and in chamber 92 at Gonur a 
"dakhma" is identified. A "dakhma" refers to a communal burial structure, 
associated with Zoroastrian mortuary practice, in which the dead are exposed. 

The use of ephedra to produce haoma, the presence of fire temples, fire altars 
(which Sarianidi directly compares to "pavi" - Zoroastrian altars), and specific 
mortuary rituals (animal sacrifice), are all advanced in Drevni Strani Margush to 
bolster the Indo-Iranian and Protozoroastrian identity of the BMAC. This hypoth- 
esis underscores Sarianidi 's recent book Margiana and Protozoroastrianism. 

Much of Margiana and Protozoroastrianism, in both text and illustration, is 
derived, if not directly translated, from his earlier work (Sarianidi 1990). There 
are, however, several important revisions as well as the inclusion of new data, par- 
ticularly from the excavations at Gonur. Most significantly, in his recent book 
Sarianidi (1999) accepts, albeit uneasily, the higher chronology for the BMAC, 
already advanced in the mid-1980s by a number of scholars. A series of 



radiocarbon dates, collected by Fredrik Hiebert (1994) at Gonur on behalf of the 
Peabody Museum, Harvard University, offers unequivocal evidence for the dating 
of the BMAC to the last century of the third millennium and the first quarter of 
the second millennium. A new series of radiocarbon dates from Tepe Yahya IVB-4, 
where BMAC imports were recovered confirms the late third millennium dating 
for the beginnings of the BMAC (Lamberg-Karlovsky 2001). The BMAC, rather 
than dating to the second half of the second millennium, is to be dated to the end 
of the third and beginning of the second millennium. Sarianidi (1999: 78) now 
writes "that the first colonists from the west appeared in Bactria and Margiana at 
the transition of the III-II Millennia B.C." (p. 78). However, his insistence upon 
the late dating of Gonur to 1500-1200 bc continues to fly in the face of his own 
carbon- 14 dates which average 300-500 years earlier. 

Of equal significance is Sarianidi's new perspective on the origins of the 
BMAC. Animal burials, camel and ram, were recovered from Gonur and other 
BMAC sites. At North Gonur the "Tomb of the Lamb" contained a decorated 
metal macehead silver and bronze pins with elaborately decorated heads, an 
ornamental ivory disc, and numerous "faience" and bone pieces of in-lay. 
Sarianidi interprets this as evidence for the transition from human to animal sac- 
rifice, even though there is no unequivocal evidence, either on the steppes or in 
Central Asia, for human sacrifice. 

Mortuary rituals, architectural parallels (particularly in what he calls "temples"), 
and above all, stylistic similarities in cylinder seals, all converge to suggest to 
Sarianidi that Bactria and Margiana were colonized by the immigrants from the 
Syro- Anatolian region (1998a: 76, 142). This argument is given greater weight in 
Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana on its Seals and Amulets (hereafter, Myths). 
Sarianidi directs a migration of "tribes" from the regions of Syro-Anatolia in two 
directions: (1) Across the Zagros to Elam and Susa, where there are numerous 
BMAC parallels (Amiet 1984), and from there to Shahdad and Yahya, where again 
BMAC materials are found (Hiebert and Lamberg-Kalovsky 1992), and finally 
toward Baluchistan. (2) A second wave went north of Lake Urmia, skirted the 
Elburz Mountains, colonized Hissar in Period 1 1 IB, and finally went on to settle in 
the oases of Bactria and Margiana. 

There is scant evidence to support the notion of an extensive migration from 
Syro-Anatolia to Bactria-Margiana at any point in the archaeological record!. 
Architectural similarities are exceedingly generalized and where parallels are 
drawn they pay little attention to time/space systematics. Thus, a text from 
Qumran referring to animal sacrifice is paralleled to the "Tomb of the Lamb" at 
Gonur, while a "Ligabue vessel," said to come from an illegal excavation at 
Shahdad finds a (vague) parallel in the Aegean and "proves the real historical link 
of the tribes that immigrated from the west with the Mycenean-Minoan world" to 
Bactria-Margiana (Sarianidi 1998a: 44). For Sarianidi the evidence derived from 
the BMAC seals is conclusive. He believes that the seals used motifs and subject 
composition that have an "undisputed Hittite-Mitannian origin" (1998a: 143). 
One gets the impression that Sarianidi chose the Syro-Anatolian region as the 



homeland of the BMAC in order to situate it within the geographical region in 
which the first Indo-Aryan texts, discussed earlier, were recovered. This presum- 
ably strengthens his Indo-Aryan claim for the BMAC (1999). His book Myths is 
devoted to convincing the reader that the BMAC seals derive their thematic inspi- 
ration and style from the Syro-Anatolian region. For another expansive catalog of 
BMAC and related seals see Baghestani (1997). 

Myths is an extremely important and valuable publication. A total of 1,802 
seals are illustrated, describing (1) seal type: cylindrical, flat, three-sided prisms, 
compartmented; (2) material: stone, copper, silver, shell, faience, gypsum, clay; 
(3) size; description of scene; and (4) provenience. Of the 1,802 seals less than 
250 have an archaeological provenience; the largest provenienced corpus is from 
Gonur where almost a hundred were recovered. Most of the seals are attributed to 
their places of sale: the Kabul Bazaar, the Anahita Gallery; or museums: the 
Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; or private collectors: Ron Garner, 
Jonathan Rosen. There are less than two dozen sealings and ten sealed bullae 
(some baked) listed as coming from Gonur and/or Togolok. Given the extensive 
areas excavated, with particular attention to elite quarters, this is a very limited 
number of sealings. Nevertheless, the presence of bullae and sealings does sug- 
gest economic functions and security concerns similar, at least in part, to 
Mesopotamian seal/sealing practices. With reference to writing, I. S. Klotchkov 
(1998) has made the intriguing suggestion that signs on a potsherd recovered 
from Gonur contain Elamite linear script. This find remains the only evidence for 
writing(?) within the BMAC. 

The discussion of the seals is divided into Group 1 , The Anthropomorpha, 
including scenes depicting seated deities on thrones, animals, or dragons; the mis- 
tress of animals, kneeling deities and heroes in combat; Group 2, serpents and 
dragons; Group 3, fabulous creatures, including winged lions, griffins; Group 4, 
animals and birds; Group 5, Arthropoda and Plants, including scorpions, snakes, 
poppies, tulips, and ephedra; Group 6, Individual Seals and Amulets, seals of 
such individuality as to defy classification. In discussing each of these groups 
Sarianidi emphasizes both the general and the specific parallels to seals in Syro- 
Anatolia. There is no doubt that a few BMAC seals, less than half-a-dozen, find 
parallel, in theme and/or style with those of Syro-Anatolian type. Sarianidi is 
relentless in his effort to convince the reader that the origins of the BMAC are to 
be found in the Hittite-Mitannian world. Generalized parallels are interpreted as 
evidence for specific BMAC origins. Thus, generic birds appear associated with 
seated "deities" on seals from the Elamite, Mesopotamian, and the Syro- 
Anatolian world. Yet, Sarianidi emphasizes only the Syro-Anatolian parallels, 
which have, at best, very generalized similarities. There is nothing in the style of 
the BMAC seals illustrating birds that privileges its derivation from any of the 
above regions. Nevertheless, Sarianidi not only derives the birds depicted on 
BMAC seals as Syro-Anatolian but associates the bird with Varaghna, the sym- 
bol of might and victory in the Avesta; "I suppose that this image was generated 
in the local Indo-Iranian milieu before Zarathustra" (1998b: 23). 



The vast majority of the BMAC seals contain motifs, styles, and even material, 
entirely foreign to the repertoire of seals from Syro-Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the 
Gulf, and the Indus. The BMAC seals are of a thoroughly distinctive type and are 
to be seen as indigenous to the Central Asian Bronze Age world and not as deriv- 
ative from any other region. BMAC seals have been found in the Indus civiliza- 
tion, on the Iranian Plateau, at Susa and in the Gulf. Amiet (1984) and T Potts 
(1994) have documented the wide ranging distribution of BMAC materials. It is 
in the context of a wide ranging distribution of BMAC artifacts that the specific 
parallels to the Syro- Anatolian region are to be appreciated. The wide scatter of 
a limited number of BMAC artifacts does not privilege any area as a "homeland" 
for the BMAC. An extremely limited number of parallels between the BMAC and 
Syro-Anatolia signify the unsurprising fact that, at the end of the third and begin- 
ning of the early second millennium, interregional contacts in the Near East 
brought people from the Indus to Mesopotamia and from Egypt to the Aegean 
into contact. 

A distant BMAC "homeland" followed by an expansive migration to Central 
Asia, is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. Nevertheless, the origins of the 
BMAC remains a fundamental issue. Although some scholars advance the notion 
that the BMAC has indigenous roots, the fact remains that the material culture of 
the BMAC is not easily derived from the preceding Namazga IV culture, thus 
suggesting its intrusive nature. The wide scatter of BMAC materials from south- 
eastern Iran to Baluchistan and Afghanistan suggests that the beginnings of 
the BMAC could lie in this direction, an area of enormous size and an archaeo- 
logical terra nullius. In fact, the BMAC of Central Asia may turn out to be its 
most northern extension while its heartland might be found in the vast areas of 
unexplored Baluchistan and Afghanistan. 

Ahmed Ali Askarov (1977), and in a later publication with T. S. Shirinov(1993), 
is responsible for excavating two important BMAC settlements in Uzbekistan: 
Sapalli depe and Djarkutan. The recent syntheses of these excavations (Askarov 
and Shirinov 1993) offers an abundance of illustrations of the architecture, ceram- 
ics, and material remains recovered from BMAC sites. The walled settlement of 
Djarkutan covers an area of approximately 100 hectares and features a fortress, 
almost completely excavated of more than 3 hectares. The material inventory as 
well as the architecture firmly places Djarkutan and Sapalli depe within the 
BMAC cultural context. Askarov follows the late chronology of Sarianidi, plac- 
ing Djarkutan within the second half of the second millennium bc. He also 
follows Sarianidi in identifying the presence of palaces, temples, and "fire altars" 
as having to do with a proto-Zoroastrian world. Special attention is paid to a large 
structure at Djarkutan, over 50 X 35 square meters, identified as a "fire temple." 
The structure contains extensive storage facilities with a large paved central room 
having at its center a raised podium believed to be the seat of the "sacred fire." 
Other rooms also contained "fire altars." The proto-Zoroastrian nature of this 
impressive building is explicitly stated. At both Djarkutan and Sapelli depe exten- 
sive areas uncovered dozens of structures and numerous graves. There is little 



attribution of materials to specific rooms and/or structures. One obtains only 
a vague notion as to how many building levels exist within a single site. My own 
visits to the sites of Gonur, Togolok, and Djarkutan clearly confirm that each of 
these sites has multiple building levels. The publications, however, present the data 
as being essentially from a single period of time. Even though Sarianidi points out 
that Gonur had 3 meters of accumulation, and Taip 2.5 meters, the stratigraphic 
complexity and/or periodization of these sites are left unexplored. Thus, the inter- 
nal development and chronology of the BMAC still awaits definition. Askarov 
takes the opportunity of reconstructing the social stratification at Djarkutan, from 
an aristocracy to slavery, all within a state structured society. He identifies both 
sites as inhabited by Indo-Iranian tribes which, he believes, played an important 
role in the later formation of Uzbek, Tadjik, and Turkman nationalities. 

The settlement pattern around Djarkutan and Sapalli mirrors that of the sites 
excavated by Sarianidi. A large settlement with impressive "temples" and/or 
"palaces" is surrounded by smaller agricultural villages. After Sapalli was aban- 
doned, for reasons unknown, the site, particularly the region about the "temple," 
was utilized as a cemetery. A total of 138 graves were excavated. Raffaele 
Biscione and L. Bondioli (1988) studied these graves to great benefit. Females 
outnumber males by 3:2. There is also a difference in the amount of wealth 
placed in the tombs; females are given an average of 15.5 objects while males are 
given 7.5 objects. There are no differences in the types of materials placed in the 
tombs; both male and female tombs contain numerous ceramics, metals, and 
stone vessels. Two male tombs, however, stand out from all the rest. In these the 
dead are buried in wooden coffins and are accompanied by the greatest number 
of goods. The authors draw attention to the fact that the general lack of gender 
distinction, with regard to accompanying grave wealth, mirrors a similar pattern 
on the steppes where the pattern of gender equality remains a characteristic of 
Scythian burials of the late first millennium. 

Striking evidence for BMAC-Steppe interaction is reported from the salvage 
excavation of an elite tomb discovered along the upper Zerafshan River, 
Tadjikistan (Bobomulloev 1999). Excavation of this tomb yielded the burial of a 
single male, accompanied by a ram, horse bits (psalia), identical to those recov- 
ered from Sintashta, a bronze pin, terminating with a horse figurine, and, numer- 
ous ceramics of BMAC type. This striking association of steppic and BMAC 
material in a single tomb underscores the existence of a paradox. On the steppes 
there is ample evidence for the use of horses, wagons, and chariots but an exceed- 
ingly sparse presence of BMAC material remains. While within BMAC commu- 
nities there is only scanty evidence for the presence of steppic ceramics and a 
complete absence of the use and/or presence of horses, their equipment, or their 
depiction. Such an assymetry in the distribution of these highly distinctive 
cultures would seem to suggest a minimum of contact between the two. The fact 
that representative communities of both cultures, that is, Arkhaim and Gonur, are 
heavily fortified suggests the recognition and need within each community to 
prepare for conflict. The extent of the conflict that existed within these distinctive 



cultures, as well as between them, remains an unknown but important question to 
be addressed. The asymmetry, that is the almost complete absence for evidence 
of contact between the BMAC and the steppes is made the more enigmatic by 
the evidence of settlement survey. The Turkman-Russian-Italian surveys indicate 
that numerous sites of steppe culture are situated near BMAC settlements. The 
mutually exclusive evidence for the material remains of one culture to be wholly 
absent from its neighboring "others" suggests intentional avoidance. Clearly this 
situation, should it be correctly interpreted requires theoretical insights beyond 
our present abilities. 

In the second century bc Zhang Qian, a Chinese envoy stationed in the western 
provinces, compared the nature of the agrarian and nomadic polities in Xinjiang. 
More recently Nicola DiCosmo (2000) suggests that the Iron Age settlements of 
Xinjiang are similar to the BMAC sites with respect to size, fortifications, oasis 
environments, subsistence patterns, and processes of nomadic-sedentary interac- 
tion. Zhang Qian wrote of twenty-four such "walled towns" in Xinjiang that 
served as "capitals." DiCosmo (2000), in turn, refers to these nomadic settlements 
as "city-states." Their size varied greatly. On the one hand the state of Wutanzli 
consisted of 41 households: 231 individuals, of which 57 were capable of bearing 
arms. On the other hand the state of Yanqi was among the most populous: 
4,000 households, with 32,100 individuals and an army of 6,000. Chinese sources 
identify these political entities as "guo," traditionally rendered in English as 
"state." Each "guo" was characterized as a political formation with a recogniza- 
ble head a bureacratic hierarchy, and a military organization. The Chinese texts 
indicate that the pastoral-nomads maintained a larger military ratio than their 
agrarian neighbors. Within Eurasia, pastoral-nomadic states, city-states, and even 
empires, is a common conceptual framework. In the late Iron Age the scale of 
nomadic "empire" is attested by the Wusun, who inhabited the Tarim Basin of 
Xinjiang. They had a population of 630,000 people and an army of 188,800 
(quoted in DiCosmo 2000: 398). To the Wusun can be added the pastoral- 
nomadic Saka, Yuezhi, Xiongnu, and the later Mongol confederations; each of 
which affected the political organization of Eurasia on a continental scale. The 
relationships that characterized the nomadic and sedentary communities, as 
recorded in the Chinese texts, were typically hostile. Why? Chinese sources 
answer the question: insufficient food supplies resulted in competition and con- 
flict over agricultural resources. When nomadic polities were strong they 
extracted tribute from their more sedentary neighbors; thus, assuring the need for 
an extensive miltary presence in return for a sufficient and regular food supply 
(see also Jettmar 1997). 

Skeletal remains from sites of the BMAC have been studied and compared to 
those of the Harappan civilization. This study has concentrated upon cranial non- 
metric variations and concluded that the populations of the BMAC and Harappa 
were "profoundly" different (Hemphill 1999). The authors believe their study 
documents a "general movement of gene flow from west to east, from western Iran 
to the oases of Central Asia" (1995: 863). It is the view of these authors that the 



BMAC either originated in, or passed through, Iran. The use of "cranial non-metric 
variation," that is to say the presence or absence of certain non-metric features on 
the skull, cannot be referred to as "gene flow" and hardly merits the sweeping 
conclusions advanced. There is absolutely no evidence that genes are involved in 
governing the presence or the absence of the cranial features studied. There are 
numerous non-genetic factors that account for cranial features and their variation, 
that is, diet. To speak of "gene flow" suggests a degree of understanding of the 
genetic structure of the architecture of the skull that we simply do not have! 

5.1 Conclusions 

Russian scholars working in the Eurasiatic steppes are nearly unanimous in their 
belief that the Andronovo, and its variant expressions, are Indo-Iranians. 
Similarly, Russian and Central Asian scholars working on the BMAC all share 
the conviction that the BMAC is Indo-Iranian. The BMAC and the Andronovo are 
contemporary but their archaeological cultures and environmental settings 
are vastly different. Passages from the Avesta and the Rigveda are quoted by dif- 
ferent authors to support the Indo-Iranian identity of both the BMAC and the 
Andronovo. The passages are sufficiently general as to permit the Plains Indians 
of North America an Indo-Iranian identity! Furthermore, archaeology offers vir- 
tually no evidence for BMAC influence on the steppe and only scant evidence for 
an Andronovo presence within the settlement of the BMAC. There is little archae- 
ological evidence within the settlements to support the notion that the Andronovo 
and the BMAC experienced a significant and/or sustained contact. Yet, settlement 
surveys indicate that the distinctive communities were close neighbors, exploit- 
ing the same environment. There is certainly no evidence to support the notion 
that the BMAC and the Andronovo shared a common ancestor. To date the horse 
has not been identified in the BMAC and the very diagnostic metal inventories 
that characterize both cultures are entirely absent in the other. There is simply no 
compelling archaeological evidence to support, or for that matter to deny, the 
notion that either one, both, or neither are Indo-Iranians. 

Indo-Iranian is a linguistic construct that formed a shared culture prior to its 
separation into Iranian and Indie branches. One branch of the Indo-Iranians went 
to Iran and another to northern India. The date of their arrival in these new home- 
lands is typically taken to be in the second millennium bc. One conclusion can 
be readily stated: there is not a single artifact of Andronovo type that has been 
identified in Iran or in northern India! The same cannot be said of the BMAC. 
There is ample evidence for the presence of BMAC materials on the Iranian 
Plateau and Baluchistan: Susa, Shahdad, Yahya, Khurab, Sibri, Miri Qalat, Deh 
Morasi Ghundai, Nousharo, etc. (for a review see Hiebert and Lamberg-Karlovsky 
1992). It is impossible, however, to trace the continuity of the BMAC material 
culture into the first millennium and relate it to the known cultures of Iranian 
speakers - the Medes or the Achaemenids (or their presumed Iron Age ancestors, 



see Young 1967; Ghirshman 1977). Within the entirety of the second millennium 
the only intrusive archaeological culture that directly influences Iran and northern 
India is the BMAC. However, it remains impossible to link the BMAC with the 
development of later second and first millennium archaeological cultures on the 
Iranian Plateau. 

The archaeological quest for the identity of the Indo-Iranians remains elusive. 
When Indo-Iranians are identified in the archaeological record it is by allegation 
not by demonstration. It is interesting to note that the emphasis in the archaeo- 
logical (and linguistic) literature has focused entirely upon the Indo-Iranians. 
What of the other major linguistic families believed to be inhabiting the same 
regions, the Altaic, Ugric, and Dravidian? The cultural-historical condition 
becomes inordinately complicated when one introduces the other languages that 
have an equal claim to be present in the same regions as the Indo-Iranian lan- 
guage. Thus, there is an equally valid quest in searching for the homeland and 
subsequent migration of the Altaic languages (Turkish, Mongolian), Ugric 
(Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian) - see Gamkrelidze and Ivanov for a full listings of 
these language families and Elamo-Dravidian. Each of these three language fam- 
ilies have their roots on the Eurasiatic steppes and/or in Central Asia. The fact that 
these language families, compared to Indo-European, are of far less interest to the 
archaeologist with regard to the study of homeland(s) and/or subsequent spread, 
may have a great deal to do with the fact that it is primarily speakers of Indo- 
European who address this topic in search of their own roots. The archaeologist 
A. L. Netchitailo (1996) cuts to the chase by referring to all archaeological cul- 
tures on the steppes as belonging to what he calls "the European community." 
Such a view can be interpreted as inclusive, in which Altaic and Ugrian speakers 
become European, or exclusive, in which case the former played no role on the 
steppes. Both views are wrong! One of the variants of the Andronovo culture and 
the BMAC may have spoken Indo-Iranian but they may have just as readily 
spoken a Dravidian and/or an Altaic language. Contemporary methodologies, be 
they linguistic or archaeological, are virtually non-existent for determining which 
language a remote archaeological culture spoke. Simplified notions of the con- 
gruence between an archaeological culture and an ethnic group is no more than 
mere speculation, often one with a political agenda. Archaeology has a long way 
to go before its methodology allows one to establish which cultural markers, 
pottery, architecture, burials, etc., are most reliable for designating ethnic identity. 
Some scholars, both linguists and archaeologists, subscribe to the notion that the 
Dravidians migrated from the Iranian highlands to South Asia where they came 
into contact with the Indus civilization (Witzel 1999), others even suggest that 
the horse and the camel were introduced into Iran by Dravidians (Allchin 1995: 3 1 ; 
Kenoyer 1998: 78). Which archaeological culture in Iran/Central Asia can 
be identified with the Dravidians? Could the BMAC be Dravidians pushed onto 
the Iranian Plateau by Altaic and/or Indo-Iranian steppe nomads? Indeed, the 
BMAC could have been Indo-Iranian as well as Dravidian, or Altaic, or any 



combination of the three! If, say the BMAC are Dravidians, then where and what 
archaeological cultures represent the others? There are either too many languages 
and too few archaeological cultures to permit for a ready fit between archaeology 
and language, or too few languages and too many archaeological cultures. 

Archaeologists and linguists share a difficulty in confronting and identifying 
processes of convergence and divergence. Migrations result in linguistic and 
cultural divergence, giving rise to the family tree model of language formation, 
while seriation, the establishment of a "genetic" relationship between two objects 
within distinctive material cultures, indicates cultural divergence within the 
archaeological record. Convergence, that is the coming together of two distinctive 
languages and/or cultures, is a more recent linguistic concern. Within archaeol- 
ogy, convergence is completely ignored. Archaeological cultures either progress 
in linear fashion, change due to internal social processes (rarely demonstrated), 
or more typically are altered by external factors (population pressure, climate 
change, migration/diffusion, etc.). Migrations, once a fashionable explanation 
for cultural divergence, have, in recent years, lost their appeal. The Australian 
linguist R. M. W. Dixon (1997) has given new life to the importance of linguistic 
convergence, first advocated by Trubetskoy (1939). Dixon convincingly argues 
that migrations, which trigger linguistic (and cultural) divergence, is a rare 
"event"; the more normal situation being processes of linguistic (and cultural?) 

Over most of human history there has been an equilibrium situation. In 
a given geographical area there would have been a number of political 
groups, of similar size and organisation, with no one group having undue 
prestige over the others. Each would have spoken its own language or 
dialect. They would have constituted a long-term linguistic area, with the 
languages existing in a state of relative equilibrium. 

(1997: 3) 

The extract would seem to describe the archaeological cultures of the steppes, 
from the Pit Grave culture(s) to the Andronovo culture(s). Given the increasingly 
large number of divisions and subdivisions of the generic Andronovo culture(s), 
with evidence for "no one group having undue prestige over the others," there is 
neither reason nor evidence to believe that they all shared an Indo-Iranian 
language. From the common roots of the millennialong Andronovo culture(s) 
[and before that the related Timber Grave culture(s)], processes of both conver- 
gence and divergence [archaeologically indicated by the eastward migrations of 
the Andronovo culture(s)] allow for the presence of not only the Indo-Iranian 
languages but for other language families as well, that is, Altaic and Uralic. 
Clearly, the convergence of cultures, that is, the assimilation of local populations 
by an in-coming peoples, is very poorly developed within the archaeological dis- 
cipline. The variations in distinction between cultural/linguistic and convergence/ 
divergence processes is explained in the diagram below. 



Convergence Divergence 

_ Convergence 




The problem of identifying cultural and/or linguistic convergence/divergence 
within an archaeological and/or linguistic framework is highlighted by Henning's 
(1978) attempt to identify the Guti as the "First Indo-Europeans." At c.2200 bc 
the Guti invade Mesopotamia and bring down the powerful Akkadian Empire. 
They are identified in the texts as mountain people, probably from northwestern 
Iran, who ruled Mesopotamia for approximately 100 years. In Mesopotamia 
archaeologists are unable to identify a single fragment of material culture as 
belonging to the Guti. Nor do the Akkadian (western Semitic) texts contain any 
loan words identifiable as Indo-European. Thus, the Guti, save for their name and 
their activities as recorded in the Mesopotamian texts, are all but invisible. 
Henning (see also Narain 1987) suggests that the Guti, following their conquest 
of Mesopotamia, migrated to the east where Chinese texts refer to them as the 
Yue-chih (the Guti being argued as the phonological equivalent of Yue-chih in 
Chinese). In the first half of the second millennium there is not a sherd of archae- 
ological evidence for a migration from Mesopotamia to China nor is their a mate- 
rial culture within the realms of the Yue-chih that finds a parallel with a material 
culture of the Mesopotamian-Gutian world. This does not negate the Guti = Yue- 
chih identity, it merely underscores the fact that convergence and/or divergence, 
in a linguistic and/or a cultural context, can almost obliterate the ability to 
distinguish previously distinctive entities, whether cultural or linguistic. 

In an interesting "Afterword" to Sarianidi's Margiana and Protozoroastrianism 
J. P. Mallory confronts the issue, "How do we reconcile deriving the Indo-Iranians 
from two regions [the steppes (Andronovo) and the Central Asian oases (BMAC)] 
so different with respect to environment, subsistence and cultural behavior?" 
(p. 181). He offers three models, each of interest, none supported by archaeological 
evidence; that is, the BMAC were the Indo-Iranians and they came to dominate the 
steppe lands, serving as the inspiration for the emergence of the fortified settle- 
ments, such as Sintashta, in the southern Urals. Thus, an external source is provided 
for the development of the "Country of Towns" and with it a linguistic affiliation. 
The author admits to the unlikely nature of this model. His conclusion is "that the 
nucleus of Indo-Iranian linguistic developments formed in the steppe lands and, 
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the ancient languages of Iran and India" (p. 184). It is that "form of symbiosis" that 
is so utterly elusive! Linguist too frequently and too adroitly, assign languages to 



archaeological cultures, while archaeologists are often too quick to assign their 
sherds a language. Dennis Sinor (1999: 396), a distinguished linguist and historian 
of Central Asia offers advice that more might heed: "I find it impossible to attrib- 
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with the words and grammar they deal with and archaeologists cannot make their 
sherds utter words. Doing either is mere assertion. We need a third arbiter, which 
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logical culture and language. Perhaps that arbiter will be in our genes - the study 
of DNA. Equally likely is that our biological history is a sufficient mosaic that 
ambiguity will characterize our DNA "fingerprint" as well. 


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Part III 


Fresh linguistic evidence 

Satya Swarup Misra* 

6.1 Structural antiquity of Sanskrit and its impact 
on the date of the Rigveda and Aryan migration 

Nowadays those who have some knowledge of comparative grammar have no 
doubt about the kinship of languages. A student of Indo-European linguistics will 
immediately recognize that the following words are cognates of the correspon- 
ding languages belonging to the Indo-European language family. 

Skt (= Sanskrit) asti, Av (= Avestan) asti, 

OP (= Old Persian) astiy, Gk (= Greek) esti, 

Hittite estsi, Lithuanian esti, Lat (= Latin) esti, 

Old Church Slavic jesti, Goth (= Gothic) ist. 

Skt bhrata, Av brata, OP brata, Gkphrate, Lat frater, Goth bropar. 

Skt pita, Av pita, OP pita, Gk pater, hut pater, Goth fadar, Old Irish athir. 

Skt trayah, Av drayo, Gk treis, Lat tres, Goth preis. 

A few centuries back, the kinship of languages was absolutely unknown. But 
suddenly something so favorable happened that the kinship of languages came to 
light. This favorable incident was the discovery of Sanskrit by the Europeans. 
Max Miiller has expressed this very beautifully in the following words. 

Languages seemed to float about like islands on the ocean of human 
speech; they did not shoot together to form themselves into larger 
continents . . . and if it had not been for a happy accident, which like an 
electric spark, caused the floating elements to crystallise into regular 

* S. S. Misra sadly passed away prior to publication of this book. 



forms, it is more doubtful whether the long list of languages and dialects 
could have sustained the interest of the student of languages. This electric 
spark was the discovery of Sanskrit. 

(1866: 153—4) 

The reason for this emphasis by Max Miiller on the discovery of Sanskrit is clear 
from the oft-quoted speech of Sir William Jones: 

The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure, 
more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more 
exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a strong 
affinity. No philologer could examine the Sanskrit, Greek and Latin 
without believing them to have sprung from some common source, 
which perhaps no longer exists. 


The discovery of Sanskrit was responsible not only for the discovery of the 
Indo-European language family, but also for the birth of comparative grammar, 
because of which the world now possesses only a few language families, instead 
of many languages not linked to each other. 

Although both William Jones and Max Miiller realized the importance of the 
Sanskrit language and could also see the importance in its structure, which 
undoubtedly speaks of its antiquity, to a great extent, they did not care to look into 
its antiquity through its structure. Jones avoided the issue by saying, "Whatever 
be its antiquity" and Max Miiller also, in spite of realizing the great impact of 
Sanskrit on comparative grammar, proposed a very recent date, the date of the 
Rigveda (RV) in 1500 bce, which was considered to be the final verdict for more 
than a century. 

Macdonell also accepted the dating of Max Miiller in his history of Sanskrit 
literature. But in his Vedic Grammar he made some casual remarks which show that 
he considered the composition of the Rigveda in various stages to be several cen- 
turies earlier than its compilation into Rigveda Sarhhita. "The Sarhhita text itself, 
however, only represented the close of a long period in which the hymns, as origi- 
nally composed by the seers, were handed down by oral tradition. We have thus 
good reason for believing that the fixity of the text and the verbal integrity of the 
Rigveda go several centuries further back than the date at which the Sarhhita text 
came into existence" (1 968). If we accept Max Miiller's 200-year gap for each stage, 
this several centuries theory will find no place. Thus Max Miiller's date was 
accepted without any serious consideration, even by Macdonell in his history of 
Sanskrit literature. 

Greek, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian etc., which are important historical 
languages in the Indo-European language family, have the status of Middle Indo- 
Aryan from the point of view of linguistic change. It is interesting to quote Lord 



Monboddo, who made the following remarks as early as 1774 of the Vedic 

There is a language, still existing and preserved among the Brahmins of 
India, which is a richer and in every respect a finer language than even 
the Greek of Homer. All the other languages of India have great resem- 
blance to this language, which is called the Shanscrit. ... I shall be able 
to clearly prove that the Greek is derived from the Shanscrit, which was 
the ancient language of Egypt and was carried by the Egyptians to India 
with their other arts and into Greece by the colonies which they settled 

(1774: 97) 

Why did Sanskrit have so much impact on Monboddo that without any analysis, 
even at the first glance, he considered Sanskrit to be the source of Greek? The 
structure of Sanskrit is responsible. 

This can be further understood from Bloomfield's observation on the importance 
of the structure of Sanskrit 

The descriptive Grammar of Sanskrit, which Panini, brought to its high- 
est perfection, is one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence 
and (what concerns us more) an indispensable model for description 
of languages. The only achievement in our field, which can take 
rank with it is the historical linguistics of the nineteenth century and 
this indeed owed its origin largely to Europe's acquaintance with the 
Indian Grammar. One forgot that the Comparative Grammar of the Indo- 
European languages got its start only when the Paninian analysis of 
an Indo-European language became known in Europe. ... If the accen- 
tuation of Sanskrit and Greek, for instance had been unknown, Verner 
could not have discovered the Pre-Germanic sound change, that goes by 
his name. Indo-European Comparative Grammar had (and has) at 
its service, only one complete description of a language, the grammar 
of Panini. For all other Indo-European languages it had only the 
traditional grammars of Greek and Latin woefully incomplete and 

(1933: 267-76) 

Although Bloomfield gives importance to Sanskrit grammar, he also gives 
the date of the Rigveda as 1200 bc (1958: 63). This shows that although he 
understood the importance of Sanskrit grammar, he did not understand the 
structural antiquity of Sanskrit to be very important for Indo-European com- 
parative grammar and the consequent need for a highly ancient date for the 



But Bloomfield rightly pointed out that the scholars of Indo-European 
comparative grammar were fortunate to get the grammar of Sanskrit at their 
disposal to work out Indo-European comparative grammar. In effect, 
Indo-European comparative grammar is nothing but a slightly remodeled Sanskrit 
grammar. In morphology it depends on Sanskrit grammar 100 percent and in 
phonology it depends 90 percent on Sanskrit grammar. For example, in morphol- 
ogy Indo-European has eight cases (nominative, accusative, instrumental, dative, 
ablative, genitive, locative, and vocative), three numbers, three genders, and three 
tenses (present, aorist, and perfect) like Sanskrit. These are better retained in 
Sanskrit than in even Greek and Avestan. In phonology the voiced aspirates are 
retained in Sanskrit only and the voiceless aspirates are more fully retained in 
Sanskrit than in Greek and other languages, where they show linguistic changes. 
The main features where Sanskrit is shown to deviate from Indo-European is the 
merger of IE a, e, o into a in Sanskrit and the change of palatal k etc. to palatal s 
etc. in Sanskrit. 

Concerning the merger of IE a, e, o into a in Sanskrit, it is to be noted that 
Schleicher, Bopp, Grimm etc. accepted the Sanskrit vowel a as showing the orig- 
inal IE vowel and Greek a, e, o as a new development. After the law of palatal- 
ization was discovered, Brugmann and subsequent scholars accepted Greek a, e, 
o to be original IE vowels and Sanskrit a as showing the merger of IE a, e, o to a 
in Sanskrit. 

The law of palatalization may be critically evaluated here. Let us take IE e and 
o as representative of palatal and non-palatal vowels, respectively. The law of 
palatalization changes Satam k etc. (< IE q/q w etc.) to c etc. in the languages 
shown in the table, and in Centum q w etc. (not q etc.) show some changes 
comparable to law of palatalization. 




Av/OP Arm 




q w (e) 







q w (o) 







g w (e) 







g w (o) 







g w h (e) 







g w h (o) 








IE q K e Skt ca, Av ca, OP ca, Gk te, Lat que 

IE g K eni Skt yam 'wife', OCS zena, Arm kin, Goth qino 'queen', Olrish ben 

IE g w henti Skt hand, Avjainti, OP ajanam, OCS ziny, Gk theino 

Several examples of this type may be cited. But there are also many exceptions to 
the change before e. 

The exceptions have been explained by analogy; for example, Skt hatah instead of 
*ghatah < IE g w hntos is explained as analogical due to the influence of Skt hand 



< IE g w henti. Similarly, Gk sebei instead of *sedei < IE tyeg w eti cp Skt tyajati is 
explained as analogical. Gothic has (< IE q w os) for expected has is also considered 
analogical. The exceptions are too many in various IE languages. Sometimes the 
same form shows e in one IE language and o in another, for example, Lat ped : Gk 
pod. This is explained as variation in the qualitative ablaut. In this case we have 
to accept that there was no rule for the qualitative ablaut. The quantitative ablaut, 
which is based on Sanskrit, is quite systematic and follows a regular morpho- 
phonemic pattern. The qualitative ablaut, which is most unsystematic and arbi- 
trary, seems to have been invented simply to accept a, e, o as original, a : e is not 
accepted in the qualitative ablaut but Skt anu < IE anu and Goth inu < IE enu 
are comparable. These variations indicate that the reconstruction of a, e, o in IE 
instead of a created much confusion. 

Moreover, Sanskrit has doublets like vakya : vacya with both k and c before y. 
Besides, Sanskrit shows cukopa, jugopa etc. without a palatal vowel. Moreover, 
there is no explanation as to why Greek presents a dental instead of a palatal when 
followed by a palatal vowel. 

In reduplications it is easy to explain that a palatal appears for a velar in 
Sanskrit by dissimilation. Similarly, the dentals in Greek can also be explained as 
due to dissimilation. 

Recent researches on the Gypsy languages show that Indo-Aryan a remains 
a in Asiatic Gypsy but becomes a, e, o in European Gypsy. This confirms 
that original IE a was the same as Skt a and remained a in the Indo-Iranian lan- 
guages, but changed to a, e, o in their sister languages. This is elaborated in 
Section 6.5. 

That IE palatal k becomes s in Sanskrit is also questionable, because in Sanskrit 
itself s becomes k before s. Thus, the k which was allophonic to s in Sanskrit 
might have been generalized in the Centum languages. Some Satsm languages 
also sporadically present k instead of a sibilant, for example, Lithuanian 
klausau < IE kleu-, Skt sru-, Av sru-, Gk klu-. 

This shows that the allophonic nature of s : k as shown by Sanskrit was partly 
disturbed in some Satsm languages and was fully lost in the highly innovating 
Centum languages, and that the allophone k has become a phoneme, replacing s 

A question may be raised here. If we do not accept that IE k > s in Skt 
should we drop the entire palatal series, that is, k, kh, g, ghl I do not want to 
discuss in detail the reconstruction of the three guttural series in IE. This has 
always been accepted simply because it is a convenient formula to explain the 
various developments in various Satam and Centum languages. All of us are 
aware of the gaps in the three-series system. It is sufficient to say here that evi- 
dence of IE kh is almost nil in Sanskrit. The developments of IE kh, g, gh, as, ch, 
j, h in Sanskrit can otherwise be mostly proved, as ch,j, h came from velars by 
palatalization. If we do not accept palatalization by e etc., there are other expla- 
nations. If the origin of s < k is not accepted, the palatal series is 80 percent 



If the Centum velars from the IE palatal series are accepted as innovation 
by changing the allophonic k (< s) to a phoneme in the Centum languages, the 
three-series system of IE gutturals almost vanishes, because the labiovelars are 
conjectured simply to explain certain innovations in the Centum languages. 
Brugmann in the first edition of his comparative grammar did not reconstruct a 
labiovelar series, but explained this as a special development in Centum 
(Brugmann 1972: 259-321). 

Thus, apart from these two reconstructions - namely, IE a, e, o for Skt a and 
IE k etc. for Skt s etc. - which are, as shown earlier, controversial reconstructions, 
Skt shows archaic features in almost all other cases. In another reconstruction, 
according to which IE r and / have become Indo-Iranian r, which further becomes 
r and / in Skt, it seems that Skt has some innovations. 

The theory is that in earlier portions of the Rigveda Samhita r prevails and 
gradually / prevails more and more in later languages, that is, in later Samhitas, 
Aranyaka, Upanisad, Classical Sanskrit and finally in Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA). 
But in fact distribution of r and / is universal across dialects. Some languages 
show a preference for r (e.g. the Old Iranian languages) and some show a prefer- 
ence of/ (e.g. Chinese). If historically / replaced r in Indo-Aryan then all New 
Indo-Aryan languages should show a preference for /, which is not the case. 
Some show a preference for r and others show a preference for /. If we take a 
single IE standard for distribution of r and /, we find confusion of distribution of 
r and / to some extent even in the languages considered to represent the original 
distribution. For this reason, the Sanskrit grammarians have accepted ralayor 

In all other aspects Sanskrit shows archaism and, therefore, IE reconstruction 
is based mainly on Sanskrit. The linguistic changes found in India in the Middle 
Indo-Aryan stage are found amply in Greek, Iranian, and Hittite, which are 
stamped as very old historical forms of IE. 

Greek presents many linguistic changes comparable to Middle Indo-Aryan. 
Some of them may be taken up here: 

1 All voiced aspirates are devoiced in Greek, for example, IE bhrater > Gk 
phrater cp Skt bhrata. Similar change is found in Paisaci Prakrit, for example, 
Skt megha > Paisaci mekha. 

2 All final consonants except n, r, s are lost in Greek, for example, IE 
ebheret > Gk ephere. Similarly, all final consonants except m are dropped in 

3 Heterogeneous conjunct consonants are often assimilated in Greek, for 
example, Homeric hoppos < hod-pos, Gk gramma < *graphma, Gk eimi/ 
emmi < IE esmi etc. This is quite frequent in MIA. 

4 Greek shows syncretism like MIA. In Greek the dative, locative and instru- 
mental have merged. In MIA the dative and genitive have merged. 

5 Greek shows vowel sandhi like MIA, for example, stemmata + ekhon > 
stemmat'ekhon. This type of sandhi is normal in MIA. 



Thus, Sanskrit deserves attribution of a much more archaic status than Greek. Hittite 
is another IE Centum language discovered in the twentieth century, which claims 
archaism superseding Sanskrit and Greek. For this language two new theories 
were developed, namely the Laryngeal theory and the Indo-Hittite theory. I have 
refuted both the theories elsewhere (1975, 1977). Thus, Hittite no longer enjoys 
archaic status, because it shows a lot of linguistic change. Nowadays very few 
scholars believe in the Laryngeal theory and nobody believes in the Indo-Hittite 

Hittite also shows linguistic changes comparable to MIA. Some may be taken 
up here: 

1 All aspirates have been deaspirated in Hittite, for example, IE dlghos > Ht 
dalugas, Gk dolikhos cp Skt dlrghah. Such changes are not attested in 
Sanskrit. They start only from the MIA stage. 

2 Hittite also shows assimilation like MIA, for example, Ht luttai < *luktai, Ht 
apanna < *apatna; Ht gwemi < *gwenmi < IE g w henmi cp Skt hanmi. 

3 Hittite also shows syncretism like MIA. The dative and locative have 
merged in Hittite in the singular. In the plural Hittite has lost most of the 

From the outset Sanskrit was the top ranking language for the reconstruction 
of IE comparative grammar. And in spite of the effort of some scholars to down- 
grade the position of Sanskrit, Sanskrit still enjoys the position of the most impor- 
tant language for comparison with the newly discovered IE languages like Hittite, 
Luwian, Palaic, and Hieroglyphic Hittite (S. S. Misra 1968, 1983a, 1985, 1986). 
Even now scholars who attempt a comparison of IE with any other language 
family use Skt forms to represent IE. 

Therefore, on the basis of linguistic archaism, Sanskrit deserves a much earlier 
date than 1500 bc, based on Max Muller's hypothesis which was accepted 
by most of the linguists in Europe as well as India. But as we will see in subse- 
quent sections, on the basis of fresh linguistic evidence the Rigveda deserves a 
very early date such as 5000 bc, which will match the linguistic archaism of 

If 5000 bc is accepted as the date of the Rigveda, then we also have to accept 
that India was probably the original home of the Aryans (or Indo-Europeans) and 
that they went to the other parts of Asia and Europe from India, because no other 
IE language can be traced to such an early date on any basis. 

6.2 Indus civilization, a continuation of Vedic culture 

A proper analysis of the language and culture of the Indus civilization is also of 
considerable importance to determine the date of Rigveda and whether Aryans 
came from outside or not. 



The discovery of the Indus civilization challenged three major hasty conclu- 
sions of Western scholars, namely, (1) the writing system was borrowed from 
the Iranians; (2) the date of Rigveda is 1500 bc; and (3) the Aryans came from 
elsewhere to India. 

The argument that there was no script in India and they borrowed the writing 
system from the Iranians is based on the evidence of the word lip i . . . , a term for 
writing, which is a loan word, thereby suggesting to some scholars that writing 
itself was a foreign import and thus not indigenous to the Vedic culture. After the 
Indus civilization was discovered Western scholors did not discuss this issue, as 
if it had never been raised. The word lipi may be a loan word. But in India the root 
likh is used for writing. The older form rikh is found in the Rigveda, meaning 
'scratch, write.' Originally rikh and likh were both used for scratching or writing. 
The word karu (< v kr) means poet, writer. And v kr is used several times in 
the Rigveda in the sense of writing (S. S. Misra 1992a): akari te navyam brahma 
(RV 4.16.2) T have made new hymns for you.' Here 'made' means 'com- 
posed/wrote'. This meaning is further strengthened by a similar use of v taks 
'fashion': navyam ataksat brahma '[he] fashioned [= composed, wrote] new 
hymns for you'. 

The date of the Rigveda as 1500 bc based on the suggestion of Max Miiller was 
widely accepted by Western as well as Indian scholars and continued smoothly 
until the Indus Valley civilization came to light. Since the date of the Indus 
civilization is based on archaeological evidence, it cannot be challenged and 
the Indus civilization cannot be more recent than 2500 bc. To reconcile the 
1500 bc date of the Rigveda and the 2500 bc date of the Indus civilization with 
the theory of Aryans coming from outside, a new theory was advanced that 
Aryans came in 1500 bc and destroyed the urban civilization of the Indus 
and established a rural civilization of the Vedic type. One basis for this theory 
was the name of Indra being given as Purandara. What did the Aryans 
destroy? They destroyed the Indus Civilization of the Dravidians. I fail to under- 
stand how such theories develop and continue, and remain followed for decades. 
Even the theory that Dravidians are different from Aryans is not confirmed 
by any ancient literature or any archaeological evidence or by any cultural differ- 
ence. Some linguistic difference is proposed, as by Caldwell, and accordingly, 
following him, Dravidian is taken as an independent language family. But nobody 
has attempted to institute a comparison of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan. We will 
take up this issue in Section 6.3. Dravidian literature is not older than Vedic liter- 
ature, nor is there any other evidence in any form that the Dravidians were in 
India before the Aryans came. Thus, the theory of Aryans destroying the 
Dravidian civilization was merely a policy-based theory to undermine Indian 
national integration. 

A few years back B. B. Lai, an Indian archaeologist of international fame, 
strongly asserted without any special new evidence that the Indus civilization was 
not Aryan, although he agrees that "In so far as the space factor is concerned, the 
Indus civilization covers most of the areas, associated with the Rigvedic Aryans" 



(1981: 286). 2 Still, Lai does not take Indus Valley civilization as Indo-Aryan 
because he appears to be sure that the Indus Valley civilization antedates the Vedic 
civilization, since the date of Rigveda, according to him, cannot be beyond 
1500 bc. Nobody except Lai, as far as I know, puts an upper limit for the date of 
Rigveda. In addition, he is fully convinced that John Marshall finally solved the 
problem as early as 1931: "John Marshall made a comprehensive survey of this 
issue way back in 1931 and demonstrated unambiguously that Indus civilization 
could not be associated with the Aryans. Thus, one need not go all over this issue 
again" (285). 

Lai then compares the contents, namely, the rural civilization of RV and the 
urban one of the Indus, the uniconic of RV and the iconic of the Indus, the 
absence of the mother goddess cult in RV and its presence in the Indus. But if 
the date of the Rigveda is accepted as earlier than the Indus Valley civilization 
then the changes found in the Indus Valley civilization are quite natural late devel- 
opments, like the Puranic civilization, which is a later development of the Vedic 

Lai finally uses the evidence of the horse, and attempts to prove that horses 
were absent from the Indus civilization, although he is aware of the evidence 
for horses in Lothal (from late levels, even if the evidence for horses from 
Mohenjodaro is ruled out as belonging to surface levels). His argument is that 
the evidence is meager. But meager evidence rules out the possibility of non- 
existence. F. R. Allchin has also taken up the problem of the association of the 
Indo-Aryans with the Indus civilization. After discussing the various issues, 
Allchin admits in his conclusion that the problem is highly complicated and 
confusing. He accepts the cemetery culture as that of Vedic Aryans and accepts 
several objects to be purely Vedic. Allchin has also examined the question of 
a fire cult at Kalibangan. 

Finally he says, "Probably the first settlers arrived in the region around 
1750-1600 bc and their numbers grew steadily during the following centuries. 
We would expect this early Vedic period to come to an end around 1500 bc and 
the first compilation of the Rigveda Sarhhita, i.e. Mannals II— VII, to be made 
during the next two or three centuries" (1981: 344). Here it is worth noting that, 
although there is concrete proof that the Indus civilization is an Aryan civiliza- 
tion, Allchin has apparently advanced his theory to protect the date of the Rigveda 
as 1500 bc based on Max Muller's chronology. 

Allchin, along with many others, accepts the Indus civilization as preceding the 
Vedic period, and this poses many problems. If the Vedic period is proved to 
precede the Indus civilization, many of the confusions will be automatically 

Some Indian scholars have attempted the decipherment of the Indus script 
and have shown it to be Indo-Aryan. Out of several such attempts, that made by 
S. R. Rao is comparatively more successful. Before him S. K. Roy also made 
a good attempt. Perhaps Roy rightly guessed the apparent pictographs to be 
compound syllabic signs. But his readings of the script have given us forms 



comparable to NIA or at best comparable to Apabhrarhsa, for example, kama 
'work', cp Skt karma, MIA kamma, NIA kama; pana 'leaf, cp Skt parna, MIA 
panna, NIA pana. Therefore, his reading could not attract the attention of schol- 
ars. S. R. Rao has similarly taken the apparent pictographs as compound syllabic 
signs. But his readings, if accepted, present a language which is transitional 
between Old Indo-Aryan and Middle Indo- Aryan. S. R. Rao himself considers 
the language to be pre-Vedic by a misunderstanding of the laryngeal theory 
(S. S. Misra 1983b). 

The language presented by the decipherment of Rao is linguistically analysed 

1 It does not present any final consonant, like MIA. Exceptional forms with 
final consonants like pat/pt 'lord' may be abbreviations for pati, like OP bg 
for baga. 

2 s, s, s, are confused like BHS (= Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit), for example, 
sasa-kka = Skt sasaka 'ruler'. 

3 r represents BHS ri/ru with hyper- Sanskritism, for example, trka = trika 

4 Conjuncts have started to be assimilated or simplified, like MIA gavva = gavya 
'bovine' (assimilated); karka (= karikal karuka) = karka 'white' (simplified). 
Apparent conjuncts like pt etc. are abbreviations for pati etc. 

5 It shows voiceless for voiced and aspirate for non-aspirate etc. like MIA, for 
example, phadra beside bhadra = Skt bhadra; paka beside baga, 
bhaga = Skt bhaga; dhaksa beside daksa = Skt daksa. 

6 It shows nasal aspirates mh, nh etc. like MIA. 

7 An a-stem influences other stems like MIA, for example, catus-ha 'of four' 
beside bhagaha 'of bhaga'. 

8 The ablative ends in a (< at), for example, baka-a 'from baka'. 

9 The dative is sporadically retained as in first MIA, for example, sakae = Skt 
sakaya, cp Asokan supathaye = Skt suparthdya. 

Thus, the language as deciphered by S. R. Rao presents a language that is transi- 
tional between OIA and MIA and thus is comparable to Buddhist Hybrid 
Sanskrit. This is not at all pre-Vedic. This presents a language which represents a 
continuation of Vedic culture. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, which was named by 
F. Edgerton, is not actually a hybrid language but represents a transitional stage 
between OIA and MIA. 

This analysis of the language of the Indus seals demands an earlier date 
for the Rigveda, since the language needs many centuries to have reached this 
stage from the Rigvedic type. This analysis also further sheds light on the fact 
that the theory of Aryans coming from outside India is to be fully abandoned, 
since we find no such archaeological nor literary evidence from India, or from 



The Puranic culture, which is a late development of the Vedic civilization, is 
found in both Aryan and Dravidian culture. Thus, the Indus civilization, which 
presents the Puranic civilization, can easily be taken as a later phase of the Vedic 
civilization even though the linguistic interpretation of the Indus seals remains 
somewhat uncertain. 

6.3 Relationship of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan and 

its impact on the date of the Rigveda and 

Aryan migration 

Indo-Aryans and Dravidians were neighbors for centuries. Indian tradition has 
never spoken about either of them as not related to the other. Both have the Vedic 
tradition as their oldest tradition. Both equally show inheritance of the Vedic 
culture. In the Mahabharata and other Puranas, Dravidians are often referred to 
as persons belonging to a particular region or province of India like Ahga, Banga, 
Kalihga or Magadha. 

After European scholars came into contact with India, the Sanskrit language 
was discovered in Europe, and Western scholars, mostly Germans, made 
comparative studies of Sanskrit with various Indo-European languages and 
consequently the Indo-European language family was discovered. But none of 
them made any effort to compare Sanskrit with the Dravidian languages. This 
may be because Dravidian was not taken to be a separate language family at that 
time. Bishop Caldwell was first to present the hypothesis that Dravidian is an 
independent language family. This was accepted because the Dravidian languages 
differ from Indo-Aryan much more than the Indo-Aryan languages differing from 
each other. But there are many common words which occur in Dravidian and 
Indo-Aryan. After Caldwell's hypothesis was accepted these words were taken as 
borrowed words, in some cases from Indo-Aryan to Dravidian, in other cases 
from Dravidian to Indo-Aryan. Gradually the effort increased to prove that most 
of the loans are borrowings from Dravidian to Indo-Aryan. A few years back one 
scholar, namely, F. B. J. Kuiper in his book Aryans in the Rigveda, tried to show 
that many words which have been accepted to be of Indo-European origin are in 
fact loans from Dravidian into Indo-Aryan. In his book there are several 
generalizations, which claims to present some new and revolutionary theory, and 
scholars are called outdated. Apparently nothing new is proved by this enthusias- 
tic scholar except the addition of some more Dravidian loan words in Sanskrit, 
based on a wrong analysis. 

Dravidian chronologically belongs to a much later date than the Rigveda in 
linguistic structure. From the point of view of linguistic changes the structure of 
Dravidian is comparable to an early phase of New Indo-Aryan. 

Recent researches propose a revised date for NIA of the first century bc 
(S. S. Misra 1980: 86), on the basis of the linguistic development of NIA stage 
by stage into independent NIA languages. NIA is now taken to date to the third 



or fourth century bc, using evidence of the migration of gypsies with an NIA lan- 
guage from India to parts of Europe and Asia, on the basis of the date of their 
migration assigned by Turner (S. S. Misra 1992b: 78). 

The earliest date of Dravidian is now known to be the third century bc, 
and therefore, chronologically, it is also now comparable to NIA. I quote 
I. J. S. Taraporewala and T P. Meenakshi Sundaram for the chronology of 
Dravidian: "among all the Dravidian languages Tamil is the oldest ... It has works 
going back to the third Century bc" (Taraporewala 1982: 226). "Short inscrip- 
tions in Brahmi script have been found in the caves of the Southern District of the 
Tamil land . . . assigned by epigraphists to the third and second centuries bc" 
(Sundaram 1965: 7). 

New Indo-Aryan differs from Old Indo-Aryan significantly, but because we 
have records of the intervening linguistic changes in Middle Indo-Aryan, we non- 
controversially accept NIA languages as having developed from OIA. For the 
Dravidian languages, however, the intermediate stage is not yet traceable and 
linguistic changes appear to be much different from OIA; hence, Dravidian could 
easily be dismissed as not belonging to Indo-Aryan. 

Now let us see how far New Indo-Aryan and Dravidian are comparable. For 
this purpose some of the linguistic changes shared by the two languages are 

1 In OIA cerebral consonants normally do not occur initially. This tendency is 
inherited by MIA and NIA, with a few exceptions of initial occurrences 
which are later developments. Similarly, retroflexes do not occur in word 
initial position in Proto-Dravidian (Subrahmanyam 1983: 334). 

2 OIA intervocal single stops became voiced and were lost in the MIA stage, 
leaving the preceding and following vowels in contact (Chatterji 1970: 82). 
Subsequently, these contact vowels were contracted (345). 

The disappearance of intervocalic plosives and subsequent contraction of 
vowels is found in Tolkappiyam (Sundaram 1965: 66) and in the language of 
the Pallava, Chola and Nayaka Ages (p. 135). 

Medial -k- in certain languages and -c- in many are often weakened to -y-, 
and medial -y- either from *-c- or original is often lost giving rise to 
contraction of the preceding and the following vowels in many languages 
(Subrahmanyam 1983: 391). 

This may be better explained as follows: the hiatus created by the loss of 
-k- or -c- was maintained by introducing a -y- glide; later on this y glide was 
also lost, followed by contraction. In the case of original y also, loss of y was 
followed by contraction. Intervocal alveolar plosives have changed to a trill 
in most of the Dravidian languages, which is in consonance with the general 
process of weakening and spirantization of plosives in the intervocalic 
position (Subrahmanyam 1983: 345). 

3 OIA intervocal cerebrals were not elided in MIA, but were changed either to 
/, / or r (Pischel 1965: 226). These are represented as /, /, r or r in NIA 



(Turner 1975: 241). In South Indian manuscripts, OIA -{-, -d- is represented 
by -/- or -/- (Pischel 1965: 226). 

Among the Dravidian languages these -/- or -/- are split into /, /, r, d, L, 
just like the NIA -/- is preserved in Tamil and Malayalam etc. It has become 
r in Telugu, Naiki, Kurux, Kuwi etc. and /, d in Kui (Subrahmanyam 
1983: 441). 

OIA conjunct consonants were assimilated in MIA (Pischel 1965: 268) and 
the preceding vowel, if long, was shortened following the law of mora. 

Shortening of a long vowel before geminates was dialectal (Turner 1975: 
405). In proto-NIA these double consonants were reduced to single consonants 
and the preceding vowel was lengthened in compensation. It affected the whole 
of IA except the North- Western group. In Lahnda and some areas of Panjabi, 
the length of both consonant and vowel has been preserved; in Sindhi, the 
consonant has been shortened. In the region between Panjabi and western 
Hindi the vowel has been shortened but the double consonants remain. 

Dravidian languages likewise do not contain consonant clusters 
(Subrahmanyam 1983: 224). Double consonants are retained in Tamil and 
Malayalam. In Tamil shortening of a vowel before double consonants is 
found from the Pallava period (Sundaram 1965: 122). Proto-Dravidian -kk-, 
-cc-, -tt-, -pp- are retained after a short vowel in Kannada, Kodagu, Tullu and 
Telugu etc., but are reduced to -k-, -c-, -t-, -p- after a long vowel 
(Subrahmanyam 1983: 22.3.1, 23.3.1, 26.3.1, 27.3.1). 
OIA consonant groups of a nasal plus homorganic stops were best preserved 
in MIA, with a few exceptions (Pischel 1983: 272, 273). In NIA these sound 
groups have undergone modification. In the case of a nasal plus a voiceless 
stop, the nasal is lost and the preceding vowel is lengthened and nasalized in 
the majority of NIA languages, except in the North- Western group, where the 
nasal is retained and the voiceless stop becomes voiced. Oriya shows partial 



Old Indo-Aryan (OIA) anka-, Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) anka cp Bengali 
(Beng) ak, Orissa (Or) anka, Assamesse (Ass) ak, Bhojpuri (Bhoj) ak, 
Awadhi ak, Maithili (Maith) ak, Gujarati (Guj) ak, Marathi (Mar) ak, 
(North- Western) Sindhi angu. 


OIA pahca, MIA pahca cp Beng pac, Ass pas, Guj pac, Awadhi pac, Bhoj 
pac, Or pahca, (North- Western) Panjabi (Panj)/>a«/, Sindhi pahja, Lahpanj. 


OIA kantaka-, Beng kata, Braj kata, Awadhi kata, Maith kata, Guj kata, 
Or kanta, (North- Western) Panj kada, Sindhi kadi. 




OIA danta-, Beng dat, Braj dat, Bhoj dat, Maith dat, Guj and Mar dat, 
Panj and Lah dand, Sindhi dandu, Or danta. 

Nasal plus voiced stop - threefold treatment: 

(i) The nasal is lost and the preceding vowel is lengthened and nasalized in 
languages like Gujarati and Marathi. 

(ii) The stop is assimilated to the nasal and lost after lengthening of the 
preceding vowel in the Eastern group of languages. 

(iii) Nasals plus voiced stops become double nasals generally in the North- 
western group of languages. 



OIA anguli, MIA anguli, Beng anali, Braj anuri, aguli, Bhoj anuri, Maith 
anuri, Mar agoli, Guj agli, Or anguli, Panj iiggali, Sindhi anuri. 


OlApmjara, Hindi pijara, G\x]pijru, Mavpijra, Panj pinjar, Sindhi piniro. 


OIA Kunda-, Beng Kuri, Bhoj Kur, Guj Midi, Mar kudi, Kum kuno, 
Or kunda, Panj and Lah kunni, Sindhi kuno. 


OIA sindura, Or sindura, Beng sidur, Braj senur, Bhoj senur, Mar sedur, 
Guj sindur, Sindhi sindhurii, Ass Xindur, Nep sidur, sinur. 

Among the Dravidian languages, in the case of nasal plus voiceless stop, 
the nasal has been assimilated by the stop in Tamil and the group becomes a 
double stop. Tamil has retained voiced stops after homorganic nasals. Because 
Tamil forms have been taken as the model for the reconstruction of Proto- 
Dravidian (PDr), some scholars assumed that Proto-Dravidian had no voice- 
less stop after homorganic nasals. K. Kushalappa Gouda has expressed his 
discontent concerning the manner of the reconstruction of PDr forms: 

There are quite a number of examples where the reconstructed 
form of PDr may differ from what is found in Tamil. But mostly, 
there is little difference between the PDr and Tamil reflex. In the 
absence of literary records in the other languages as ancient as that 
of Tamil, and in the situation where the majority of languages 
are merely spoken ones, nobody would be able to say whether such 
reconstructed forms are really the PDr ones, or simply the ancient 
Tamil forms for which the PDr forms will be entirely different. 



It is possible that the PDr reconstructed forms could be entirely 
different from what is known now, had the other languages also 
possessed equally ancient records, or if the records of ancient Tamil 
had not been taken into account. The non-availability of certain 
items in some languages does not mean that those languages did not 
possess them at all. 

(1972: 82) 

Thus, the non-availability of nasal plus voiceless stop in Tamil and 
Malayalam does not prove that there were no voiceless stops after homor- 
ganic nasals in Proto-Dravidian. Further the nasal plus voiceless stop of Old 
Telugu and (Old) Kannada corresponds to the double stop of Tamil, as in the 
following etyma: 

Tel anta 'that such' Tam anaittu 

Tel anipa-kadu 'archer' Tam appu adj. 

Tel t 'date palm' Tam iccam adj. 

(-cc- instead of -tt- due to the palatalization) 

Tel kalaka 'turbidity' Tam kalakka 

Tel konki 'hook' Tam kokki 

Tel veto 'hunting' Tam vettam 

Tel onti 'an ear ring' Tam ottuk 

Kan entu 'eight' Tam ettu, en 

Kan kalanku 'make something turbid' Tam kalakku 

Kan kohce 'inferiority' Tam koccai 

Kan manku 'sluggishness' Tam makku 

It is evident from the above examples that there were voiceless plosives 
after homorganic nasals in Proto-Dravidian which were assimilated to the 
following stops in Tamil. Malayalam follows Tamil in this respect. In the case 
of nasal plus voiced stop, the group is retained in Tamil. In Malayalam it 
often becomes a double nasal. In Old Telugu the nasal was retained after a 
short vowel, but it was lost after a long vowel nasalizing the preceding vowel. 
Homorganic nasals were retained in Old Kannada only after short vowels. 
Even here a voiceless stop often became voiced thus reducing the distinction 
between voiced and voiceless plosives in Kannada also. Sporadic loss of a 
homorganic nasal is found in medieval Kannada, which became a regular 
feature of Modern Kannada (Subrahmanyam 1983: 22.8.1). 

The OIA inflectional system was simplified in MIA to some extent owing to 
the phonetic modification of forms. Out of eight cases in OIA, NIA had only 
two: nominative and oblique. The nominative represents the old nominative 
and oblique is the representative of the other case inflections of OIA (Chatterji 



1970: 481), to which post-positions are added to show the case relation. 
Similarly, Dravidian languages also show two types of stems, namely, nomi- 
native and oblique (Shanmugam 1971: 196). 

It is true that Caldwell's theory of Dravidian being an independent family 
has had a long-lasting effect. Because of his theory several foreign and Indian 
scholars have compared Dravidian with other language families but never with 
Indo-Aryan or Indo-European. It is also to be noted that some scholars have com- 
pared Indo-European with other language families, taking Sanskrit forms as rep- 
resentative of IE. Even sometimes, strangely, for one and the same language 
family (e.g. Uralic), some have compared it with Indo-European, others have 
compared it with Dravidian. But almost no linguist has ever dared nor cared to 
institute a comparison of Indo-European (or Indo-Aryan) and Dravidian, as if this 
was a forbidden field. 

But R. Swaminath Aiyar was an exception. He wrote a book entitled Dravidian 
Theories (published posthumously, 1975) in which he tried to prove that 
Dravidian and Indo-Aryan have linguistic affinity and are genetically related. 
He refuted Caldwell and quoted G. U. Pope in support, who said that several 
Indo-European languages are linguistically further away from Sanskrit than 

Aiyar illustrated his case by showing that many forms where Caldwell com- 
pared Sanskrit with Dravidian to show disagreement actually agree with another 
Sanskrit form supplied by Aiyar. Some of Aiyar's examples are given here (Aiyar 
1975: 18-19). 




Proposed Sanskrit forms of Aiyar 















kel ken (Tulu) 



bhaksa t 


trnu, tr 



gu, set 

ya, car 



ira, irabu 





yay (Paisacl) 

J. Harmatta has shown that there was contact between the Proto-Indo-Aryans and 
Proto-Dravidians in the fourth millennium bc (198 1). His conclusion for the date of 
contact is based on linguistic evidence. Instead of using the terms Dravidians and 
Indo-Aryans, he called them Proto-Dravidians and Proto-Indo-Aryans because, on 
linguistic evidence, he needed a very early date for the contact, although at that time 
(i.e. the fourth millennium bc), according to the theory of some Western scholars, 
Indo-Aryans were supposed not to have been in India. This might have been a prob- 
lem to Harmatta. Therefore, he suggested that both Indo-Aryans and Dravidians 
came to India, and that on the way to India they had linguistic contact. But it is 



simpler to assume that both were in India at that time and had linguistic contact 
there. It is still more simple and sound to assume that the words which need a date 
of contact of the fourth millennium bc on linguistic grounds as loan words in 
Dravidian might be words originally inherited in Dravidian from the Proto-speech 
which was the common ancestor of both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan. 

The following are some of the Dravidian words illustrated by Harmatta as loans 
from Sanskrit: cay 'to incline, lie down' (Skt sete), cantan 'pleasure' (Skt santa, 
santi), cati 'to destroy' 'to kill' (Skt satayati). Such words were traced by 
Harmatta as borrowings into Dravidian from Indo-Aryan in the fourth millen- 
nium bc and he himself was surprised as to how this was possible. Harmatta 's sur- 
prise will be answered perfectly if the date of the Rigveda goes beyond the fourth 
millennium bc - that is, to (approximately) the fifth millennium bc - and India is 
taken as the original home of both Indo- Aryans and Dravidians. It will be simpler 
to explain the situation if both Indo-Aryan and Dravidian are traced to a common 
language family. In vocables they show significant agreement. In phonology and 
morphology the linguistic structures agree significantly. It requires a thorough 
comparative study of the two language families to conduct a fuller study. The real 
problem is that Dravidian in its oldest available structure is comparable to New 
Indo-Aryan in phonological and morphological developments, as shown earlier. 
A comparative study of the structure of Dravidian should be made with that 
of NIA since both belong to almost the same chronological level according to 
contemporary research. 

NIA, which without controversy is accepted as a development from Sanskrit, is 
known because of the intermediate stage MIA. If MIA were not there, it would not 
have been possible to link the NIA languages with Sanskrit because there are so 
many linguistic peculiarities within NIA which distance it from Sanskrit; for exam- 
ple, Hindi second causative kar(a)vana is derived from Skt *karapayati instead of 
Skt regular karayati, which is the source of Hindi karana, the first causative. The 
derivation of Hindi -ava- from Skt apaya is known through the MIA form -ava-, 
which was extended in MIA to all causative formations. It is probable that for 
Dravidian such an intermediate link is lost, for which reason it appears as though the 
language is of another family. But its affinity with Indo-Aryan (or Indo-European) 
should be explored and not ignored. Although the history of the Albanian language 
has not yet been properly worked out because of the non-availability of an interme- 
diate stage, its Indo-Europeanness is not challenged. 

Caldwell also said that the Dravidian languages occupy a position of their own 
between the languages of the Indo-European language family and those of the 
Turanian or Scythian (= Ural-Altaic) group - not a midway position, but consid- 
erably nearer the latter than the former (Taraporewala 1982: 220). 

In this way, Caldwell wanted to prove that Dravidian is nearer to Ural-Altaic 
than to IE, but he unwittingly opened up the fact that Dravidian and Indo- 
European are comparable; therefore, it is high time that they were compared and 
it would be better still if the three languages - Dravidian, Indo-European, and 
Ural-Altaic - are grouped together after a thorough comparison, which will 



enrich the grouping of languages. For all these comparisons, Sanskrit is always 
ready to help us with its ocean of linguistic material, which scholars use for 
comparing IE with other language families. 

Therefore, a serious effort to compare Dravidian and Indo-Aryan (or Indo- 
European) should now be made. This research will be successful and will con- 
clusively prove that Dravidian and Indo-Aryan belong to one common source; 
there will be no scope to assume that Aryans came from outside and drove the 
Dravidians away to the South. 

6.4 Evidence from the Uralic languages for the date 
of the Rigveda and Aryan migration 

The Uralic languages contain many loan words from Indo-Aryan, beginning 
from the Rigvedic stage. Many scholars have worked on these loan words. The 
oldest loan words have been shown by most of them to be Indo-Iranian. But often 
these so-called Indo-Iranian words are attested in Sanskrit, and such words 
should be taken to be Indo-Aryan. Loan words, when traceable in an attested 
language, should preferably be accepted as loans from the attested language 
rather than an hypothetical earlier stage. It will be seen below that most of the 
loan words attested in the Uralic languages are borrowed from various stages of 
Indo-Aryan, namely, Vedic, Classical Sanskrit, Middle Indo-Aryan, and New 

Of the scholars who have taken an interest in these loan words, we may 
mention a few important names here, namely, T. Burrow, J. Harmatta and 
V I. Abayev. 

Burrow, in his Sanskrit Language, discussed only twenty-three loan words, and 
he derived them from Indo-Iranian even when they are clearly Indo-Aryan loans 
(1955: 23-5). His discussion is not of much use for us since he does not talk about 
chronology. But that he stamped these words as Indo-Iranian instead of Indo- 
Aryan shows that he also might have accepted that these borrowings were made 
by the Uralic languages at very early dates, which indirectly confirms an early 
date of the loan words proposed by Harmatta. 

Harmatta's work is very important for its chronological estimate (1981: 75-9). 
He classified the loan words into eleven periods, with the linguistic changes of 
each stage accompanied by examples. 

The examples of the Uralic forms are cited by him in reconstructed forms. He 
cited fifty-three examples. In the first stage, which he assigns to 5000 bc, he cites 
only one example, aja, as an Indo-Iranian borrowing, which is actually a 
borrowing from the Rigvedic language. Elsewhere, I have critically evaluated 
Harmatta's linguistic analysis (1992a: 18-24). I cite some examples from Harmatta's 
work stage by stage. In conclusion Harmatta showed that the 11th Period of 
borrowing was in 1500 bc and that the 1st Period belongs to 5000 bc. He assumes 
about 300 years for each of the eleven stages. The Sanskrit forms given in brackets 
in the following list are supplied by me. 



1 st Period: 

FU (= Finno Ugric = Uralic) *aja- 'to drive' < PIr *aja (cp Skt < aj 

'drive', this is a Rigvedic verb). 

2nd Period: 

FU *orpas *orwas 'orphan' < PIr *arbhas (cp Skt arbha-(ka) 'child'). 

FU *pakas 'god' < Plr*bhagas (= Skt bhagah). 

FU *martas 'dead' < ¥\x*mrtas (= Skt mrtah). 

FU *taiwas 'heaven' < PIr *daivas (= Skt daivah). 

3rd Period: 

FU *octara 'whip' < PIr *actra (Skt astro). 

FU *caka 'goat' < PIr *cagah (Skt chagah). 

4th Period: 

FU *arwa 'present given or received by the guest' < PIr *arg w hah (cp Skt 


5th Period: 

FU *tajine 'cow' < PIr *dheinuh (Skt dhenuh). 

FU *ta e 'milk' < PIr *dedhi (cp Skt dadhi). 

FU *sasar 'younger sister' < PIr *svasar (cp Skt svasa). 

6th Period: 

FU *warsa 'foal, Colt' < PIr *vrsah (cp Skt vrsah 'bull'). 

FU *sapta 'seven' < PIr * septa (Skt sapta). 

FU *tese 'ten' < PIr *desa (cp Skt dasa). 

FU *sata 'hundred' < PIr *sata (cp Skt sata). 

FU *resme 'strap, cord' < PIr *rasmih (cp Skt rasmih). 

7th Period: 

FU *mekse 'honey bee' < PIr *meksi (cp Skt maksi). 
FU *mete 'honey' < PIr *medhu (cp Skt madhu). 
FU *jewa 'corn' < PIr *yevah (cp Skt yavah). 

8th Period: 

FU *asura 'lord' < PIr *asurah (cp Skt asurah). 

FU *sara 'flood' < PIr *sarah (cp Skt sarah). 

FU *sura 'beer, wine' < PIr *surd (cp Skr surd). 

FU *sasra 'thousand' < PIr *zhasra (cp Skt sahasra). 

9th Period: 

FU *sas, sos 'to become dry' < PIr *saus (cp Skt sosah). 

FU *sare 'booklet, rill' < PIr *ksarah (cp Skt aksarah). 

10th Period: 

FU *wisa 'anger, hatred hate' < PIr *vis-visam (cp Skt vis am). 

FU *ora 'bowl' < PIr *ara (cp Skt ara). 

1 1th Period: 

FU onke 'hook' < PIr *ankah (cp Skt ankah). 



Harmatta constructed the chronology by taking the separation of Indo-Iranian 
from Balto-Slavic as occuring in the first half of the fifth millennium bc. The loan 
word he assigns to 5000 bc is a Rigvedic form. Hence, his chronology indirectly 
puts the date of the Rigveda in 5000 bc. 

Abayev does not discuss chronology by so thoroughly showing linguistic 
changes stage by stage (1981: 84-9). He puts the date for the oldest period (i.e. 
Ilr, where actually he cites Sanskrit forms as Ilr) as 3000 bc and the last period 
as the first century ad, where we find NIA borrowings. By this he also confirms 
the date of NIA as the first century bc (Abayev 1980: 98). Now of course, from 
gypsy evidence, the date of NIA has been placed further back, to the fourth 
century bc (Section 6.6 below). 

But Abayev's classification of stages is in the normal, accepted formula: Aryan 
(= Indo-Iranian), Indo-Aryan etc. He cites many examples - around a hundred in 
all. His examples are very important as they illustrate loans from Old Indo-Aryan, 
Middle Indo-Aryan, and even New Indo-Aryan. Some of his illustrations are 
given by stage: 

A. Proto- Aryan borrowings (= Proto-Indo-Iranian borrowings): 

Saami driel, drjdn 'southern, south-western' cp Indo-Iranian (= Ilr) arya-, 
Aryan', Av arya- 'id.' (actually Av airya: but Skt arya, present author). 
Mansi sat 'seven', Hung het 'id.', cp Ilr sapta, Skt sapta 'id.', Av hapta 'id.' 
Finn (= Finnish) jyva 'corn', Ost (= Ostya) jiivd 'id.', cp llryava, Skt yava, 

'id.', Av^ava 'id.' 
Mord (= Mordvian) azja 'connecting pole', cp Ilr atsa-, Skt isa 'id.', Av 

aesa- 'plough'. 
Mord sazor, sazdr (< sasar) 'younger sister', Udm (= Udmurt) sazer 'id.', 

cp Skt svasar 'sister'. 
Finn parsas, Mord purtsos, purts 'suckling pig', Komi pors 'swine', Udm 

pars 'id.', llrparsa, Sakapa'sa 'swine'. 
Komi sur, Udm sura 'beer', cp Skt sura- 'intoxicating drink'. 
Komi, Udm surs (< sasr) 'thousand', Skt sahasra 'id.' 
Finn, Ost udar, Mord odar, Mari woSar 'udder', cp Skt udhar 'id.' 
Finn vermen 'thin skin', vermeet 'clothes', cp Skt varman 'cover', 'armour'. 
Finn marras 'dead', cp Ilr mrtas, Skt mrtas 'dead'. 

B. Borrowings which may be Indo-Iranian or Old Indo-Aryan or Old Iranian: 
Finn muru 'crumb', Mansi mur, mor- 'crumble', cp Skt mur 'crumble', 

murna- 'shattered', Saka murr 'crumble', Osset mur- 'crumb'. 
Komi karni 'to make', Udm karni, cp Skt, Av kar- 'to make'. 
Finn arvo 'price', Skt argha 'price', Av arya 'price', Osset arg 'price'. 
Hantipdnt 'road', cp Skt pantha 'road', Av panta 'road'. 
Komi pod 'foot', Skt, Ir pada- 'foot'. 
Komi ram 'rest, peace', Skt rama, Av raman, Pahlavi, Persian ram 'rest, 




Komi, Udm das 'ten', Skt das a, Av dasa, Osset dees 'ten'. 

Finn sata 'hundred', Osset sada, Mansi sat, Hanti sot, Mord sada, Mari siiSd, 

cp Skt sata 'id.', Av sata, Osset saidai. 
Finn, Ost asa 'portion', Skt amsa, Av so- 'id.' 
Finn orja 'slave', Skt, Av arya Aryan' (actually Skt arya, Av airya cp also 

OP ariya). 
Mord sava 'goat', cp Skt chaga, Osset sav (g > v, cp bhanga > pavas). 
Hanti wat, wot 'wind', Mansi wat, cp Skt, Av vata 'id.', Osset wad. 
Hung var 'fortress', cp OP var, Av vara-, Pahl war. 

C. Borrowings from Proto Indo-Aryan: 

Hung tehen 'cow', cp Skt dhenu 'id.', Av dainu (actually daenu), Ilr dhainu. 
Hung to' 'milk', cp Hindi dhai (actually dahi), Nep dai, Kashmiri dai, Pkt 

dahi, Skt dadhi, 'soured milk'. 
Mansi sis 'child', cp Skt sisu. 

Komi, Udm med 'pay, fee', cp Skt mldha-, Av mizda. 
Mord sed, sed, Komi sod 'bridge', cp Skt setu, Av haetu 'id.' 
Mansi sankwa 'stake', cp Skt sanku 'id.' 
Mansi mant 'bucket', cp Skt mantha, manthana, Pali mantha. 
Hung szeker 'carriage', cp Bihari sagar, Hindi sagar, Punj chakra, Or 

chakara (actually sagada), cp Skt sakata. 
Komi dew* 'briddle', domavna, Udm dam «, cp Skt daman 'rope'. 
Komi <iar, Udm dur 'ladle', cp Skt darvi- ' ladle', Kafir dur. 

D. Borrowings from Iranian: 

Mari marij 'man', cp Olr marya, Av mairya, OP marika, Skt marya. 
Komi mort 'man', Udm murt 'man', Mord mirde, cp Olr, OP martya 'id.', 

Persian mard (but actually Skt martya is also comparable). 
Finn oras, Mord urozi 'wild boar', cp Av varaza, Pahl waraz, Oset waraz 

(but cp also Skt varaha). 
Finn sarv; 'horn', Oset sarv, Mord swro, Komi and Udm sur, Mari swr, cp Av 

sru, srva (but cp also Skt srnga-). 
Komi varnos 'sheep', cp Skt *varna, Pahl warrak, Komi vMrww 'wool', cp 

Skt urna. 
Finn vow, Ost vasik, Mansi vasir, Hung wszo 'bull', cp Olr vasa, Oset wees, 

Skt vatea 'calf (but better cp also MIA vasa 'bull', Skt vrsa 'bull'). 
Komi kurog, Udm kureg 'hen', cp Av kahrka, Oset kark (but cp also Skt 

rja-pya- 'stretching oneself), Arm arciv. 
Hanti wards 'horse hair', cp Av varasa Sogd Pahl wars 'hair' (but cp also Skt 

vara-, vala- 'hair'). 
Mansi anser 'fang, tusk', Hanti anzar, Hung agyar, Sogd *ansur ('nswr), cp 

Tokh ankar 'fang, tusk' (but cp also Skt amsu 'filament, point'). 
Komi buris, bursi 'mane', cp Av bardsa-, Osset bars 'mane'. 
Komi, Udm majeg 'stake', OP mavu\a, Skt mayukha, Sogd me\k, Osset mex- 



Finn wasara, Ost vasar 'hammer', Mord uzer, cp Av vazra- (but cp Skt 

Mord spanst 'briddle belt', cp Afgan spansai, Osset fsonz (*spanti) 'yoke'. 
Mansi rasn 'rope', cp Pers rasan, Olr rasana-, Skt rasana- 'rope'. 
Hung ostor 'whip' dialectal astar, Mansi astdr, ostdr, cp Av astra-, Pahl 

as tar (cp also Skt astra). 
Komi gort 'house', Udm gurt, Hanti kort, hurt, Ir *grda, Av gra-, Skt 

grha 'id.' 
Komi, Udm zarni, Hung arany 'gold', cp Av zaranya 'gold', Osset zcerin (but 

cp also Skt hiranya). 
Hung nad 'reed', cp Av nada 'reed' (cp also Skt nada, nala 'id.'). 
Mansi sat 'happiness, luck', Komi Udm sud, cp Av sati-, OP syati, Pers sad. 
Southern Samoed arda 'right', cp Olr arta- (but cp also Skt rta 'right' 

whereas Av has asa-). 
Mord erva 'every', cp Av harva 'every' (actually Av haurva, cp Skt sarva). 
Mori raks 'dark horse', cp Pers ra\s 'id.' Skt laksa 'lac'. 
Hung tart 'to hold', cp OP dar-, Av dar-, Osset daryn 'to hold' (cp also Skt 

dhar-ana, dhrta 'hold'). 
Mansi kon, Hand kinta 'dig', Hung hany, Komi kund, cp Av kan, OP kan- 

'dig' (cp also Skt khan 'dig'). 
Hung kincz 'treasure', cp OP granza-, Arm (< Iranian) gandza 'treasure'. 
Hung nemez 'thick felt', Hanti namat, Komi namdt, namot, cp Av nimata, Skt 

namata, Sogd namat, Osset nymcet 'thick felt'. 
Finn suka 'brush', cp Av suka 'thorn', Osset sug 'beard', 'awn', Skt suka 

'beard', 'awn'. 
Finn tarna 'grass', Ost tarn, Komi, Udm turin, cp Skt trna 'grass', Saka 

tarna (< *tarna) 'grass'. 

E. Borrowings from Late Iranian (or Northern Iranian): 

Mari kdrtni, Komi kort, Udm kort, Hanti kartd 'iron', cp Osset kard 'knife', 

'sword', Av kart, Av kardta- 'knife' (cp also Skt kartari 'knife'). 
Komi tarzdnd 'shiver', cp Osset tairsyn 'to be afraid' (cp Skt tarjana 'to 

shout with anger'). 
Hanti tegdr, Mari torkek 'fire (tree)', cp Osset tazgair 'maple (tree)'. 
Mansi sirej (sirj) 'sword', cp Osset cirq 'a kind of sword'. 
¥j3xm jenden, Udm andan 'steel', cp Osset ainden 'steel' < Olr handana 

'steel fishplate'. 
Komi, Udm pod 'crossing, cross road', cp Osset feed 'track, foot print' 

(cp Skt pad 'foot-path 'path'). 
Mari kane 'hemp', cp Osset gcea (< kana-) 'hemp' (cp also Skt kanlci 

'a creeper'). 
Kom gon, Udm gon 'hair', cp Osset qun 'hair', 'wool', Av gaona. 
Finn varsa, Ost vars 'stallion, foal', cp Osset wyrs 'stallion' < Iranian vrsan 

(cp Skt vrsan- 'bull'). 



Finn ternikko 'young animal', Osset tcerna 'boy', Av tauruna (cp Skt taruna 

Komi vurd 'otter', cp Osset uyrd, urd 'otter', Olr udra (cp Skt udra). 
Hung keszeg 'name of a fish', Mansi kdseuw, Hanti kosd, cp Osset kcesag. 
Mari dngdr 'fishing hook', Osset cengur 'id.' (cp Skt ankura, 'shoot', ankusa 

Mansi serkes carges 'eagle', cp Osset ccergces, Av kahrkasa (cp Skt krkalasa). 
Mord Ionian 'man', cp Osset lymcen 'friend' (cp Skt ramana 'husband'). 
Udm dksej 'prince', Osset ceksin 'lady', Av x^aya-, OP xsaya8iya (cp Skt 

ksayati 'rules'). 
Komi idog 'angel', Osset idawceg 'deity' < Olr *witawaka. 
Mari werg , Komi vork- 'kidney', Osset wdrg 'id.', Skt vrkkau, Av vdrdSka. 
Komi gor 'sound', Udm gur 'tone', Osset qcer, ycer 'sound', cp Skt gir 'sound'. 
Udm ana 'without', 'minus', Osset cenai 'id.', Av ana 'preposition', cp Skt 

an- 'negative prefix'. 
Udm bad'zim, bad'zin 'big' Osset badzin 'id.' 
(Note: The Sanskrit forms given in brackets are supplied by me.) 

Although I do not agree fully with Abayev's classification of the forms, I accept the 
importance of his classification. The forms given in the first stage of borrowing 
which he calls Proto-Aryan (= Indo-Iranian) actually include clearly Sanskrit 
forms, and thus the date of the Rigveda must precede this earliest stage of bor- 
rowing. Abayev's forms for other stages actually present borrowings sometimes 
from Middle Indo-Aryan and sometimes from New Indo-Aryan. Therefore, 
Abayev's examples very clearly indicate that there are forms from various stages 
of Indo-Aryan, that is, Old Indo-Aryan (Vedic and classical), Middle Indo-Aryan 
(including various stages), and New Indo-Aryan. By way of example a few forms 
borrowed in Uralic from various stages of Indo-Aryan may be cited next. I have 
classified these after analyzing the examples given by Abayev. 

Borrowings from the Vedic stage: 

Saarni ariel, arjan, cp Skt arya. 

Mord sazor, sazer, Udm sazer, cp Skt svasar. 

Mari marij 'man', cp Skt marya. 

Komi Udm med 'pay', cp Skt mldha. 

Komi dar 'ladle', cp Skt darvi. 

Borrowings from the Vedic or classical stage: 

Komi sur-, Udm sunt 'beer', cp Skt surd. 

Komi Udm surs 'thousand', cp Skt sahasra. 

Finnish vermen 'thin skin', vermeet 'clothes', cp Skt varman 'cover', 'armour'. 

Mansi sis 'child', cp Skt sisu. 

Mansi sankw 'stake', cp Skt sanku. 

Finnish tarna, Osty tarn 'grass', cp Skt trna. 



Borrowings from the Middle Indo- Aryan stage: 

Finnish vasa, Osty vasik, Mansi vasir, Hung uszo 'bull', cp MIA vasa < vrsa. 

Mord sed, Komi sod 'bridge', cp MIA sedu < Skt setu. 

Borrowings from the New Indo-Aryan stage: 

Mansi sat 'seven' < NIA sata < MIA satta < Skt sapta. 

Finnish inarms 'dead' < NIA mara 'dead'. 

Hung szeker 'carriage', cp Hindi sagar, Or sagada. 

Hung tei 'milk', cp Hindi dahl, Or dahi, Beng dai. 

Therefore, Indo-Aryan loan words in Uralic present evidence for the date of the 
Rigveda as being before 5000 bc, in accordance with Harmatta's chronology, 
since the Uralic forms show the source as being the Rigveda. 

Thus, the evidence of loan words from Indo-Aryan in the Uralic languages as 
given by T Burrow, J. Harmatta, and V I. Abayev helps us in coming to the 
following conclusions. 

1 The loans belong to a very early age, and although the loan words often 
clearly present Old Indo-Aryan or Vedic forms, the scholars prefer to take 
them as Indo-Iranian in view of their earliness. But since in form they are 
clearly Indo-Aryan words, they should be taken as Indo-Aryan and not 
Indo-Iranian and also not as Iranian, when a form is phonetically nearer to 

2 In this way of taking the forms as Indo-Aryan, the earliest loan ascribed by 
Harmatta to 5000 bc is to be accepted as a Rigvedic form and, therefore, the 
date of the Rigveda goes beyond 5000 bc. 

3 Since loan words found in Uralic are borrowed from various periods of 
Indo-Aryan including OIA, MIA and NIA, it is to be accepted that the 
Indo-Aryans were present in the Uralic area at various times as a result of 
which there was linguistic contact, which indirectly helps us to assume that 
Indo-Aryans (who were the original Aryans, i.e. Indo-Europeans) might have 
gone out in prehistoric times to other places of historical IE languages like 
Greek, etc. 

6.5 Evidence from Gypsy languages for Aryan migration 

The Gypsy languages also present some indirect but very strong evidence for 
Aryan migration. Many scholars have worked on these languages, and now 
nobody has any doubt about their origin. These Gypsy languages are now 
included under New Indo-Aryan without any controversy. Their characteristics 
are the same as Modern Indo-Aryan languages, with natural dialectal varia- 
tions. There is also no controversy about their homeland being India. From 
India they went to various parts of Europe and Asia. Accordingly, they are broadly 
classified as Asiatic Gypsies and European Gypsies, not merely geographically 



but also on the basis of some linguistic differences which will be taken up next. 
Besides, the Gypsy languages are more locally distributed, with local names in 
different parts of Europe and Asia. Accordingly they are called Armenian 
Gypsy, Bohemian Gypsy, English Gypsy, German Gypsy, Greek Gypsy, 
Hungarian Gypsy, Romanian Gypsy, Spanish Gypsy etc. on the basis of the 
places where they have settled. 

There is some controversy regarding the exact region of India from which they 
originated. Turner discussed the controversy about their region of origin and con- 
cluded that Gypsy belongs to the Central group of Indo-Aryan, but that the 
Gypsies severed connections with the Central group before the time of Moka. 
Thus, Turner considers their original homeland to be Central India and the date of 
their migration to be earlier than the third century bc. The route of their migra- 
tion has also been hinted at by Turner, "Where did they go? Since later on they 
appeared in Persia, it is reasonable to suppose that they migrated through the 
North West" (1975: 269). Thus, it is perfectly clear that the Gypsies went outside 
India via the north-west around the fourth century bc. On the authority of Turner 
we may take it as concrete evidence of the migration of the Indo-Aryans from 
India to Iran around the fourth century bc. Subsequently, from Iran they went on 
to other parts of Asia and Europe. Therefore, it is quite likely that in the remote 
past, say in about 5000 bc or earlier, the same thing might have happened that is, 
the Indo-Aryans (or Aryans, i.e. the Indo-Europeans) migrated from India via the 
north-west, first to Iran and then to other parts of Asia and Europe. This will be 
better established when we examine the linguistic changes which have happened 
in Gypsy in comparison with the other New Indo-Aryan languages in India and 
compare the changes with the linguistic changes of other historical Indo- 
European languages in comparison with Sanskrit. Two very important features 
may be cited here: (1) New Indo-Aryan a is found as a, e, o in European Gypsy 
(examples are cited later). Sanskrit a is found as a, e, o in Greek and with further 
modification in other Indo-European languages. (2) New Indo-Aryan voiced 
aspirates are not retained as voiced aspirates in any dialect of Gypsy. They have 
become devoiced or deaspirated in various Gypsy languages (examples are cited 
below). Sanskrit voiced aspirates are the same as Indo-European voiced aspirates 
but in Greek they are devoiced and in several other Indo-European languages they 
are deaspirated. 

The change of NIA a to European Gypsy a, e, o is to some extent guided by the 
following situation, as studied by me from the examples cited by Turner (1975: 
272ff.) It normally becomes e, but in final syllables often becomes o and in forms 
which had closed syllable in Sanskrit remains a in European Gypsy. 

Eur Gyp kher 'donkey', Arm Gyp x al "h Syr Gyp kar, cp Skt khara 

(Av x ara ) etc- 
Eur Gyp gelo 'went', Syr Gyp gara, cp Beng gelo, Or gala, Skt *gatala. 
Eur Gyp kher 'house', Arm Gyp khar, cp Hindi ghar, Or ghara, Pali gharam. 



Eur Gyp ciken 'fat', cp Or cikkana, Bhoj cikkan, Hindi cikna, Skt cikkana. 

Eur Gypy'ewa 'person', cp Or jana, Hindi jana, Skt janah. 

Eur Gyp terna 'youth', Syr Gyp tanta, Or taruna, Skt taruna. 

Eur Gyp te/e 'under', cp Hindi tal, Or tola, Skt ta/a. 

Eur Gyp dives 'day', Or dibasa, Skt divasa. 

Eur Gyp aes 'ten', Arm Gyp las, Syr Gyp das, cp Skt oosa, Hindi das, 

Or cfawa (= das a), Bhoj Jos. 
Eur Gyp Jeve/ 'god', Arm Gyp leval, Skt devata, Or debata, Bhoj devata. 
Eur Gyp rAere/ 'holds', Arm Gyp /Aar-, cp Skt dTzar, MIA and NIA dhar. 
Eur Gyp len 'river', cp Skt, MIA and NIA nadl. 
Eur Gyp nevo 'new', Syr Gyp nawa, cp Skt nava-, Or naba, Hindi, Bhoj 

nay a. 
Eur Gyp perel 'falls', Arm Gyp par-, cp MIApadai (Skt patati), "NlApad. 
Eur Gyp phenel 'speaks', cp Skt bhan-, Or bhan. 
Eur Gyp pherel 'fills', Arm Gyp phar- 'ride', cp Skt bhar 'bear', Or bhar 

'fill', Hindi bhar- 'fill', Bhoj Mar. 
Eur Gyp merel 'dies', Syr Gyp murar 'dies', cp Skt, MIA and NIA mar- 'die'. 
Eur Gyp juvel 'young woman', Syr Gyp juar, cp Skt yuvatih, Or jubati. 
Eur Gyp se/ 'hundred', Syr Gyp 5a/, cp Skt satam, Hindi sau. 

In closed syllables European Gypsy retains a, for example, 

Eur Gyp ahgust 'finger', cp Skt ahgustha, Hindi ahgutha. 
Eur Gyp ante 'we', Syr Gyp ante 'we', cp Or ante 'we', Skt asma. 
Eur Gyp katel 'spin', Hindi kat 'spin', Skt *kartati = krnatti. 
Eur Gyp kham 'sun', Hindi gham 'heat', Skt gharma. 

Sometimes a and o occur in other circumstances owing to analogy and other 

Eur Gyp na 'not', Skt na. 

Eur Gyp sosa 'moustache', cp Skt smasru. 

Eur Gyp sosai 'hare', cp Skt sasa. 

Well known is the equation of Skt a to Greek a, e, o. A few examples may be cited 
for comparison: 

Skt dadarsa, Gk dedorka. 
Skt apa, Gk apo. 
Skt bharami, Gk phero. 
Skt asti, Gk esti. 

Comparison of the examples of the linguistic change of Indo-Aryan a to Gypsy 
a, e, o suggests that, similarly, original IE a (= Skt a) has become a, e, o in Greek, 
and other IE languages show further changes. 



Some examples show that NIA voiced aspirates have become devoiced and 
deaspirated in various Gypsy dialects: 

Eur Gyp kher 'house', Arm Gyp khar-, Pali gharam, Hindi and Beng ghar, 

Or ghara, Bhoj ghar. 
Eur Gyp kham 'sun', Syr Gyp gam, Skt gharma. 
Eur Gyp dranth- 'to cook', Skt randh- 'to cook'. 
Eur Gyp phenel 'speaks', Arm Gyp phan-, cp Skt bhanati. 
Eur Gyp phago 'broken', Syr Gyp bagar 'breaks', cp Skt bhagnah, Or bhahga. 

Well known is the devoicing of IE voiced aspirates in Greek and the deaspiration 
in several IE languages like Avestan, Gothic, Hittite etc. 

Skt bharami, Gkphero 'I bear', Goth bairn, Av barami. 
Skt dadhami, Gk dolikhos 'I hold, put', Av dadami. 
Skt dlrghah, Gk dolikhos 'long', Ht daluga, Av dardyo. 

In this manner Gypsy languages present evidence of linguistic changes that 
repeat what had happened several thousand years back. Thereby they also prove 
that IE a (= Skt a) becoming a, e, o in Greek is a quite natural change, as it 
happened with the European dialects of the Gypsy language several thousand 
years later. 

Further to confirm that the original IE vowel was a (as in Skt) instead of a, e, o 
as in Greek, let us see the position of a : a, e, o in the Indo-European historical 
languages. For IE a (or a, e, o) Skt has a, Iranian a (where Old Persian has a but 
Avestan changes Iranian a to a, d, e, i, o under certain circumstances, for which 
see Section 6.6). Greek has a, e, o, Latin has a, e, o (but sometimes e changes to 
i, and o changes to u in Latin), Baltic a, e, Slavic o, e, Gothic a, e, Hittite a, e, Luw 
a, Palaic a, Hieroglyphic Hittite a, Lycian a. Some examples may be cited here to 
illustrate the distribution of a : a, e, o in various IE historical languages. IE esti > 
Skt asti, Av asti, OP astiy, cp HHt astu, Luw astu (as-du), Pal astu (asdu), Gk esti, 
Lat est, Goth ist, OCSjesti, Lith esti, Ht estsi (es-zi). IE apo > Skt apa, Av apa, 
OP apa, Lat ab, Goth af, Ht apa, Luw apa(n), HHt apan, Lye epn (here Lye shows 
e for IE a reconstructed on the basis of Gk a). JE osih > Luw hassa (= has- < 
hasi) 'bone', Ht hasti-, Skt asthi, Av ast-, Gk osteon, Lat os < * ost. 

This shows that a, e, o as three vowels are found only in Greek and with fur- 
ther changes as five vowels in Latin. Some other languages show only two vow- 
els (a and e); most languages show one vowel, a. If we accept the changes shown 
in Gypsy as model, then it will be clear that changes in IE historical languages 
were also independent developments in each, as in case of ped in Latin and pod 
in Gk from IE pad, which is pad in Sanskrit, Avestan, Old Persian, Hieroglyphic 
Hittite, Luwian etc. 

Reviewing the position of the distribution of a, e, o in various IE historical 
languages, it is now clear that the reconstruction of a as made by Schleicher, 



Bopp and Grimm is more appropriate than the later reconstruction of a, e, o as 
made by Brugmann etc. (followed by many including myself [1968, 1975, 
1979, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1993]) if the Aryans had India as their original 
home and went out to different parts of Europe and Asia via Iran. The original 
a (= Skt a) is retained in Old Iranian (with changes in Avestan under different 
circumstances [Section 6.6]) and gradually changes in various historical 
languages for which the change of climate might also have been partly 

Similarly, the IE voiced aspirate became mostly deaspirated and sometimes 
devoiced under similar climatic variation. Therefore, the Gypsy evidence is helpful 
for the conclusion that the Centum languages, of which Greek is the most archaic, 
are all innovators and have changed significantly in comparison with the proto- 
speech; moreover Sanskrit antedates Greek etc. in archaism. Therefore, the original 
area of Sanskrit, that is, India, is more likely to be the original home of the Aryans 
(i.e. Indo-Europeans). 

6.6 Evidence from Iranian for Aryan migration 

In Section 6.1 I showed that Sanskrit is the most archaic language in the 
Indo-European language family. Iranian is next in order of archaism, from the 
point of view of its structure. 

Iranian agrees significantly with Indo-Aryan. Therefore, Sanskrit and Iranian are 
well known to be very close to each other, on which basis they are put by the Indo- 
Europeanists into the Indo-Iranian branch without any controversy. A similar effort 
to link Italic and Celtic into an Italo-Celtic branch has not been successful. The 
Baltic and Slavic branches were similarly linked into Balto-Slavic, but this, too, was 
not highly successful. Iranian is closest to Sanskrit. Sanskrit is very close to 
Proto-Indo-European, if not identical. Iranian is second in order of closeness to 
Indo-European. Formerly, Greek was accepted as the second-most archaic language 
in as it retains IE a, e, o as against Sanskrit (or Indo-Iranian) a. But the Gypsy evi- 
dence presented in Section 6.5 conclusively proves that the Sanskrit (or Indo- 
Iranian) a is the original IE vowel, and this takes away the second position of 
archaism formerly allotted to Greek. 

Although Indo-Iranian a (or Skt a) was retained in Old Iranian and 
subsequently also in Old Persian, it has changed considerably in Avestan. 
The change of Iranian a in Avestan may be shown by the following examples 
(S. S. Misra 1979: 16-18): 

1 a > d when followed by m, n, v but preceded by any sound except y, c, j, z. 
Av kdm, cp Skt kam: Av bardn, cp Skt (a) bharan; Av sdvisto, cp Skt savisthah. 

2 a> i when followed by m, n, v and preceded by y, c,j, z. Av yim, cp Skt yam: 
Av vacim, cp Skt vacant; Av drujim < Iranian drujam, cp Skt druham < *dru- 
jham; Younger Av druzinti < Iranian drujanti, cp Skt druhyanti. 



3 a > e after y when the next syllable had e, y, c, j or r\h (= Skt sy). Av 
yeidi/yedi, cp Skt yadi; Av yehe/ye-qhe, cp Skt yasya; Av iOyajah-, cp Skt tyaj; 
Ay yesnya, cp Skt yajniya. 

4 a > o sometimes after labial sounds when the next syllable had u/o. Rarely also 
a > o when the next syllable had a conjunct preceded by r. Av vohu, cp Skt 
vara; Av mosu, cp Skt maksu; As/pouru < *poru (< Iranian />ar« < llrprru), cp 
Skt/iwrw; Gothic Av cord? < *cort < *cart, cp Skt kah < kart. 

5 a > a in all other situations. Av apa, cp Skt apa; Av aw//, Skt asti. 

The change of a to several vowels a, e, o etc. in Avestan was conditioned by 
definite situations. But the change of a to a, e, o in Greek, Latin and to a, e in 
several other languages was a change for which no condition can be deter- 
mined. This shows that these languages belong to a much later date, when 
there were generalizations and several other phonological and morphological 

The Middle Indo-Aryan languages are characterized by a lot of linguistic 
change in comparison to Old Indo-Aryan, in phonology and morphology. They 
show changes in vowel quality (e.g. Skt candrama > Pali candima), assimilation 
of consonants (e.g. Sktyukta < MIAyutta), dropping of final consonants (e.g. all 
final consonants except m are dropped in MIA), syncretism (e.g. the dative is 
replaced by the genitive, Skt ramaya dehi > MIA ramassa dehi) and several other 

Similarly, important Indo-European languages other than Sanskrit show several 
linguistic changes in comparison to Sanskrit. The Old Iranian languages (Avestan 
and Old Persian), Greek, Latin, and the Anatolian languages are some of the most 
important IE historical languages. But they present many linguistic changes com- 
parable to Middle Indo-Aryan. Comparatively, Iranian proves to be more archaic 
than Greek, Latin, and Anatolian as far as the linguistic changes are concerned. 
Therefore Iranian may be placed as next to Sanskrit in archaism. 

Nevertheless, Iranian is much less archaic than Sanskrit and deserves a much 
later date than Sanskrit, in spite of being placed earlier than Greek etc. Iranian 
also presents several linguistic changes and thus, is comparable to Middle 
Indo-Aryan to some extent. 

Avestan has several developments from a, as shown earlier. Moreover, it shows 
other linguistic changes, some of which may be taken up here. 

1 Avestan shows spirants for voiceless aspirates, for example, Skt sakha, Av ha\a. 

2 Av deaspirates the voiced aspirates, for example, Skt brata, Av brata. 

3 Final vowels are lengthened in Gothic Avestan and shortened in Younger 
Avestan; hence the quantity of final vowels cannot be determined in Avestan. 

4 The a-stem influences other stems in Av as in MIA. Thus the ablative singular 
is extended to other forms, for example, Av xraOvat (of w-stem) after masyaat 
(of a-stem). 



Old Persian retains original a as a, but it also has many linguistic changes 
comparable to MIA. 

1 OP drops all final consonants except m, r, s. MIA drops all final consonants 
except m. 

2 OP shows spirants for voiceless aspirates like Avestan, for example, Skt 
sakha, OP haXa-. In MIA Niya Prakrit sometimes shows spirants; Niya 
anega (= aneya) < Skt aneka. 

3 OP also deaspirates all voiced aspirates like Avestan, for example, Skt bhrata, 
OP brata. In MIA Niya shows deaspiration, for example, buma < bhumi. 

4 The dative is lost and replaced by the genitive in OP as in MIA. 

5 The alternative instrumental plural ending -ais of -a-stems is fully replaced 
by -bhis in OP as in MIA. 

6 In OP the imperfect and aorist tenses have merged to form a preterite as in 

7 The perfect tense is almost lost in OP as in MIA. 

8 The passive voice often takes active endings in OP as in MIA, replacing the 
original middle endings. 

In this way Iranian, although more archaic than other IE languages, is much less 
archaic than Sanskrit and is akin to the eldest daughter of Sanskrit from the point 
of view of archaism. 

Therefore, if India was the original home of the Aryans (or Indo-Europeans) 
and the migration started from India via the north-west, then Iran was the first 
destination. This is proved by the movement of the Gypsies, who first reached 
Iran going via the north-west, as shown in Section 6.5. 

In Indian tradition there is no hint even about the Indo-Aryans coming to India 
from outside. But in Avestan we have evidence of the Iranians coming from 
outside. Iranian presents evidence by means of the words naming several rivers in 
the Rigveda, for example, Sindhu (Av, OP, Hindu), Sarayu (Av Haroyu, OP 
Harayu), Sarasvati (Av Hara^v aiti, OP Harauvatiy). These are often shown in 
Iranian evidence as names of areas. The Rigveda does not speak of any such place 
as Iran. Thus, although the Iranians refer to the Vedic areas, Vedic people never 
refer to the Iranian areas, which shows that Iranian culture is a later phase of the 
Vedic culture. In other words, the original homeland of the Iranians must have been 
the Vedic lands. 

P. L. Bhargava came to the same conclusion on the basis of other important 
evidence (1979: 59-61). He showed that the first section of the Vendidad enu- 
merates sixteen holy lands, created by Ahuramazda, which were later rendered 
unfit for the residence of men (i.e. the ancestors of the Iranians) on account of dif- 
ferent things created therein by Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit of the Avesta. This 
clearly means that the ancestors of the Iranians had lived turn by turn in all these 
lands. One of these lands was a land of severe winter and snow. This may be a ref- 
erence to the north-west Himalayan pass by which they went to Iran. Another was 



HaptaHindu the land of seven rivers. Excessive heat created in this region by 
Angra-Mainyu was the reason the ancestors of Iranians left this country. Thus, the 
Iranians lived in the region of Sapta-Sindhu of the Rigveda before going to Iran. 

This gives us sufficient evidence that India was the original home of Iranians 
and also of Indo-Aryans. Avestan also refers to Airyana Vaeja, which means the 
original land of the Aryans; this indicates that Iran was not their original home 
and thus indirectly shows that India was their original home. 

In Sanskrit deva means 'god' and asura means 'demon'. But in the Rigveda 
asura is also used as an epithet of some gods. In Iranian deva (Av daeva, OP 
daiva) means 'devil/demon' and asura (Av and OP ahura) is used for 'god'. The 
word deva originally signifies god in Indo-European, cp Lat deus 'god', Lith 
devas 'god' etc. The Iranian use of deva 'devil' is definitely an innovation. It is 
quite natural that when the Indo-Aryan and Iranians differed from each other 
dialectally and could not remain amicable, the Iranians left for Iran and settled 
there. There they might have developed an extremely antagonistic attitude toward 
the Indo-Aryans (who remained in India) and consequently in Iranian the use of the 
words deva and asura was reversed, which resulted in special sets of words called 
ahura and daeva words in Avestan. 

R. Ghirshman showed on the basis of archaeological evidence that the 
Indo-Aryans were present in the lower reaches of the Volga in 4000 bc and the 
Iranians came there in 2000 bc (1981 : 140-4). He, however, takes the lower reaches 
of the Volga as the original home of the Indo-Iranians. But there is no evidence in 
his analysis for this being the original home. On the basis of archaeological evi- 
dence a date can be decided showing the presence of some people or certain things 
in an area. But the place from which they came to that place cannot be decided. 
Therefore it is likely that the Indo-Aryans went to the Volga from India, since their 
presence in the Volga is attested by the archaeological evidence of chariots, equine 
bones and signet horns etc., as shown by Ghirshman. Iranians reached there 2,000 
years later, in 2000 bc, after they were separated from Indo-Aryans in language and 
culture. This evidence of the date of the Indo-Aryans being outside India in 
4000 bc also confirms further the date of the Rigveda as beyond 5000 bc, already 
known on the basis of the Uralic evidence (Section 6.5). It also indirectly confirms 
India as the original home of the Indo-Aryans (and of the Indo-Iranians and further 
also of the Indo-Europeans) and also confirms other evidence which suggests that 
Indo-Aryans were migrating to various places in different periods beginning from 
5000 bc, as the Uralic and other evidence reveals. 

6.7 Evidence from the Anatolian languages 
for the date of the Rigveda 

Even when it was assigned a recent date like 1500 bc, the Rigveda was considered 
to be the oldest document of the Indo-European language family until the discov- 
ery of the Hittite inscriptions. The date of Hittite was fixed by archaeology and there 



was no controversy. It was considered to be earlier than the Rigveda, since some of 
the inscriptions are said to belong to the nineteenth century bc, although most of 
them belong to the thirteenth or fourteenth century bc. Soon two new theories 
developed. One is the Indo-Hittite theory, which proposed that Hittite is a sister of 
Indo-European, and other historical languages like Sanskrit or Greek etc. are like 
nieces to Hittite. We will see later that it was too hasty a conclusion based on no 
evidence, and therefore it is almost buried now. The other theory was the laryngeal 
theory. This proposes that there were some laryngeal sounds in the proto-speech, 
which are retained only in Hittite and lost in all other historical languages includ- 
ing Sanskrit, Greek, etc. This was also a hasty theory based on a shaky foundation. 

Before we take up the two theories let us give a brief sketch of the Anatolian 
languages. Several other languages were discovered along with Hittite. They are 
Luwian, Palaic, Lycian, Lydian, and Hieroglyphic Hittite. These along with 
Hittite are grouped together as Anatolian. Hittite is distinguished from the rest in 
some respects. Accordingly, the other Anatolian languages are classified as 
ti-Anatolian, since they retain IE ti as ti. But Hittite is called tsi-Anatolian, as it 
changes IE ti to tsi (written zt). 

The following are some of the special characteristics of Anatolian. 

1 Anatolian presents a laryngeal, borrowed orthographically from Semitic, 
because Anatolian is written in a Semitic script. 

2 Vowel length is lost, at least orthographically. 

3 Aspirates have lost aspiration. 

4 Voiced stops are distinguished from voiceless orthographically by single 
writing and double writing, wherever possible. 

5 The distinction between masculine and feminine forms is lost due to perhaps 
loss of vowel length. But according to Meriggi, Lydian presents evidence of 
a feminine (Sturtevant 1951: 8). Hittite shows a feminine formative -sara (cp 
Skt -sra in tisrah, catasrah, feminine formative in numerals). 

6 The Dual is almost lost in Anatolian languages, as in Middle Indo-Aryan. 

7 Syncretism is found in the plural. 

8 The perfect tense is lost, as in MIA. 

9 The imperfect and aorist tenses have merged to form a preterite, as in MIA. 

10 Out of the five moods of IE, only the indicative and imperative are retained, as 
in NIA. Even MIA retains the optative along with the indicative and imperative. 

1 1 The middle voice is partly retained, as in first MIA. 

Let us now take up the laryngeal theory. This theory is more popular than the 
Indo-Hittite theory, as many scholars think that it explains many unsolved 
problems of Indo-European comparative grammar. I have refuted the laryngeal 
theory and have shown, successfully, that it is not useful to explain anything; in 
fact, it is an unnecessary burden on Indo-European grammar (1977). Here a brief 
exposition may be presented. 



The Anatolian languages were written in a Semitic script and the laryngeal 
symbol of the Semitic script was frequently used in writing the Anatolian 
languages. This might have entered first as an orthographic inaccuracy but sub- 
sequently have been phonetically established in the Anatolian languages. 
Scholars reconstruct several laryngeals in the proto-speech, from two to 
twelve. The widely accepted number of laryngeals in proto-IE was four, as 
reconstructed by Sturtevant, out of which two are said to be retained in 
Anatolian and none is retained in any other IE language. Scholars of laryngeal 
theory have explained certain linguistic changes in non-Anatolian IE 
languages as being due to the loss of laryngeals. Let us take here some such 
features one by one. For convenience of description let us call the four 
laryngeals HI, H2, H3 and H4. 

Laryngealists like Sturtevant have cited examples from Hittite only. 
Accordingly H3 and H4 are retained in Hittite. HI and H2 are lost even in 
Hittite. Hittite shows only one symbol for the laryngeals, namely, h, which is 
often written doubled hh. Sturtevant takes hh as voiceless coming from H3 and 
h as voiced coming from H4, on the model of the stops, which show double 
writing for voiceless. But that h is voiced and hh is voiceless cannot be proved 
by cognates from other IE languages, whereas other stops such as kk/gg being 
voiceless and k/g being voiced can be proved by cognates. And even if we 
accept two laryngeals as being retained in Hittite to prove some phonological 
change in the other IE historical languages caused by the loss of laryngeals, that 
also cannot be established by these two only. They are supplemented by HI and 
H2, and for these laryngeals there is no evidence even in Hittite or any other 
Anatolian language. Some examples of the treatment of the Laryngeals are 
cited here. 

1 eH4 > Ht eh and e in others, for example, meH4 > Ht mehur 

'time' but Skt ma (< IE me) 'measure', Gk metis 'skill', Goth mel 'time'. 
la But eH2 > Ht e and e in others: eH2s > Ht estsi 'sits', Gk hestai, Skt aste 
'sits'. Here to prove long e from e plus a laryngeal, H2 is conjectured, for 
which there is no evidence in Ht. This conjecture has been made just to make 
eH4 > e acceptable. 

2 H3e > Ht ha and a in others: H3enti > hanti 'in front', Skt anti 'near', Gk 
anti 'in front'. 

2a Hie > Ht a and a in others: Hlepo > Ht apa 'back', Skt apa 'away', Gk 
apo 'away'. Here to prove laryngeal plus e > a, HI is conjectured 
without any evidence from any Anatolian language, when H3 is not attested 
in Hittite. 

The laryngeal theory. The main utility of the laryngeal theory was to explain 
the laryngeals found in the Anatolian languages. But the laryngeal in 



Anatolian is merely an orthographic borrowing from Semitic, since these 
Anatolian languages used a Semitic script. The laryngeal is also not always 
fully systematic in orthography, for example, Ht eshar : esar 'blood', Ht 
walk 'beat': Hieroglyphic Ht wal 'die', Ht ishiyanzi 'they bind':Luwian 
hishiyanti 'they bind', Ht mahhan 'when':Ht man 'when': Hieroglyphic Ht 
man 'when'. I have refuted this theory in greater detail in my The Laryngeal 
Theory, A Critical Evaluation and New Lights on Indo-European Comparative 

Now let us take up the Indo-Hittite theory, which owes its inception to 
Emil Forrer and cradling to E. H. Sturtevant. This theory was advanced merely 
with the intention of proving that Hittite was more archaic than other Indo- 
European languages including Sanskrit. But once the laryngeal theory is 
refuted nothing remains in Hittite to prove its archaism. The Indo-Hittite the- 
ory has been discussed in detail and thoroughly refuted in my New Lights on 
Indo-European Comparative Grammar. I present a few important features of 
the theory here. 

1 Indo-Hittite (IH) had no long vowel. Long vowels developed later by the 
merger of a laryngeal with short vowels. This is automatically refuted by 
refuting the laryngeal theory, as the evidence for laryngeals is not fully avail- 
able to prove this assumption. Besides, Hittite and other Anatolian languages 
distinguish the development of short and long diphthongs, which proves that 
length was there in the proto-speech. Hittite itself needs a long e in the proto- 
speech to explain the change of t to ts, for example, IE te > Ht tseg 'you'; 
but IE te remains te in Hittite; for example Ht esten. The short vowels in 
Anatolian may be orthographic or new developments and do not present any 

2 IH did not have aspirates. Aspirates developed later in combination with the 
laryngeals. In fact in Anatolian languages, as in several other IE languages, 
aspiration of aspirates is lost. This is not an archaism: loss of aspiration is 
a late development, as in Iranian, Germanic etc. 

3 IH had laryngeals, retained in Anatolian languages, and other IE languages 
have lost them. The laryngeal theory has been refuted earlier. Thus, the proto- 
speech had no laryngeal. 

4 IH did not have a feminine gender. The feminine is a late development. The lack 
of a feminine in Anatolian may be due to the loss of length of vowels, since most 
feminines had long vowels. Besides, Hittite shows feminine formative -saras 
as in supi-saras 'virgin', which indicates that the feminine was also there in 

5 IH had a restricted use of the dual, and the plural also lacked a full develop- 
ment in IH. In fact Hittite also presents evidence of a dual, as in hasa 
hantsasa 'children and grandchildren'. The IE dual is lost in many IE lan- 
guages, and loss of the dual in Anatolian is quite natural. 



6 IH did not develop all tenses and moods found in IE. In fact the Anatolian 
languages, which are now known to belong chronologically to the Middle 
Indo-Aryan period, show many changes in common with MIA, and as in 
MIA many tenses and moods are lost in Anatolian. 

Thus, the Indo-Hittite theory was a hasty conjecture based on no evidence. 

Therefore, since both the Indo-Hittite theory and the laryngeal theory are no 
longer valid, the claim of Hittite to be more archaic than Sanskrit is no more 
acceptable. On the other hand, a thorough linguistic study of Hittite gives Sanskrit 
a more archaic status than Hittite, since Hittite is comparable chronologically 
to Middle Indo-Aryan on the basis of several linguistic changes. A few such 
linguistic changes may be listed here. 

1 It shows assimilation as in MIA: 

kt > tt, for example, *luktai > Ht hatai 'window', cp MIA jutta < Skt yukta. 
mn/nm > mm (also written m), for example, *memnai > Ht memai. *gwenmi 
(< IE g w henmi) > Ht gwemi T strike', cp Skt hanmi, cp MlAjamma < Skt 
janma. *dwan (< IE dwom) > Ht dan 'two', cp Skt *dvam as in dvandva, 
cp MIA do < Skt dvau. tn > nn, for example, Ht apanna < *apatna, cp MIA 
ranna < Skt ratna. 

2 Prothesis, for example, Ht ararantsi < Ht (rare) rarantsi 'washes', cp MIA, 
Asokan istrl, Saurseni itthi < Skt strl. 

3 Anaptyxis, for example, Ht arunas 'sea' < IE ornos, cp Skt arnas 'water', 
cp MIA radana/raana < *ratana < Skt ratna. 

4 Metathesis, for example, Ht degan < *dgan < *gdan < IE ghSom, cp Skt 
ksam, cp MIA (Pali) makasa < Skt masaka. 

5 Syncretism: in Hittite, the singular and the dative and locative have merged; 
in the plural the instrumental, ablative, genitive, and locative have merged. In 
MIA the dative and genitive have merged. 

6 The dual is lost in Hittite except in one example of a compound, hasa 
hantsasa 'children and grandchildren'. The dual is lost in MIA except in two 
words, do (< Skt dvau) and ubho (< Skt ubhau). 

7 The aorist and imperfect have merged to form the preterite in Hittite as well 
as in MIA. 

8 The perfect is lost in Hittite as well as in MIA. 

The other Anatolian languages are less archaic than Hittite. 

Of greater importance are the Indo-Aryan borrowings in Anatolian documents, 
which present conclusive evidence on the date of Rigveda as being much beyond 
2000 bc. These borrowings include the names of Vedic gods, Indo-Aryan numer- 
als, the names of kings, and several other words. But the language when analyzed 
indicates a transitional stage between Old Indo-Aryan and Middle Indo-Aryan 



which is comparable to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and the language of the Indus 
seals as deciphered by S. R. Rao. 

When these words were discovered scholars initially took them to be Indo- 
Iranian loan words, perhaps because the date of Anatolian was accepted to be 
earlier than the date of the Rigveda, assigned at that time as 1500 bc. But now all 
accept these loan words as Indo-Aryan. 

The following names of Vedic gods are available in a treaty between the Hittite 
king Suppiluliuma and the Mitanni king Matiwaza (c.1300 bc). The Vedic gods 
mentioned here are Indara (= Indra), Mitrasil (= Mitra), Nasatianna (= Nasatya, 
the Asvins), Uruvanassil (= Varuna). Since Indra is an evil spirit in Avesta and an 
important god in the Rigveda, these names are definitely taken from the Rigvedic 

The Indo-Aryan numerals are found in the treatise on horse training composed 
by Kikkulis of Mitanni (Section 6.9). They are aikawartanna (= Skt ekavartana) 
'one turn of the course', terawartanna (= Skt tre-vartana) 'three turns of the 
course', sattawartanna (= Skt sapta-vartana) 'seven turns of the course', 
nawartana with haplology for nawawartana (= Skt nava-vartana) 'nine turns of 
the course'. The forms of numerals in these words are clearly Indo-Aryan. The form 
aika- is especially confirmatory. The form satta for Skt sapta- is a clearly Middle 
Indo-Aryan form. 

T. Burrow also tried to prove that the names of gods and numerals are not 
Indo-Aryan but Indo-Iranian. After it was finally proved that these words are Indo- 
Aryan beyond doubt, T. Burrow in a revised edition of his book (1977) tried rather 
unconvincingly to propose a third branch of Indo-Iranian from which these loan 
words were taken. His statements in both editions of Sanskrit Language have been 
criticized by me elsewhere (Burrow 1992: 5-8). 

Besides the names of the Vedic gods and the treatise on horse training showing 
Indo-Aryan numerals, the Anatolian documents present the following forms also 
borrowed from Indo-Aryan. It will be observed that in several forms the Hurrian 
suffix -nil-nu is appended. Sanskrit cognates are given in parentheses. 

wasannasaya 'of stadium' (Skt vasanasya). 

aratiyanni 'part of cart' (Skt rathya). 

asuwaninni 'stable master' (Skt asva-ni). 

babrunnu 'red brown' (Skt babhru). 

baritannu 'golden yellow' (Skt bharita). 

pinkarannu 'red yellow, pale' (Skt *pingara), cp Skt pinjara + pingala. 

urukamannu 'jewel' (Skt vukma). 

zivannu 'quick' (Skt jira). 

Makanni 'gift' (Skt magna). 

maryannu 'young warrior' (Skt marya). 

matunni 'wise man' (cp Skt mati 'wisdom'). 

Besides, the following names are also of Indo-Aryan origin: Sutarna (Skt sutarna 
or Sutrana), Parsasatar (Skt prasastra), Sussatar (Skt sasastra or sausastra), 



Artadama (Skt rtadhama), Tusratha (Skt tus-ratha), Mativaza (Skt mativaja), 
Artamna (Skt ftamna), Bardasva (Skt vrdh-asva), Biryasura (Skt vlrya-sura or 
vlrya-sura), Purus (Skt Purusa), Saimasura (Skt sima-sura or saimasura), 
Satavaza (Skt satavaja). A linguistic analysis of all the Indo-Aryan names 
borrowed into Anatolian, as quoted above, depicts a language with the following 

1 The language is conclusively Indo-Aryan. It is neither Iranian nor 

2 The following linguistic features reveal that the language belongs to an early 
Middle Indo-Aryan stage or to a transitional stage between Old Indo-Aryan 
and Middle Indo-Aryan. 

(i) Dissimilar plosives have been assimilated, for example, sapta > satta. 
Gray quotes the MIA form for comparison, but he is silent about the fact 
that the borrowing in Anatolian is from MIA (1950: 309). 

(ii) Semi-vowels and liquids were not assimilated in conjuncts with 
plosives, semi-vowels or liquids as in 1st MIA, for example, vartana > 
wartana, rathya > avatiya-, virya > Birya-, Vrdhasva > Bardasva. 

(iii) Nasals were also not assimilated to plosives/nasals, unlike in 1st MIA 
and like in OIA. This characteristic places the language of these 
documents earlier than 1st MIA, for example, rukma > urukmannu, 
rtanma > artamna. 

(iv) Anaptyxis was quite frequent, for example, Indra > Indara smara > 

(v) v > b initially, for example, virya > birya, vrdhasva > bardasva. 

(vi) r > ar, for example, rta > arta, vrdh > bard-. 

Thus, a linguistic study of the borrowed Indo-Aryan forms in the Anatolian 
records shows that they are definitely Indo-Aryan and not Iranian nor Indo- 
Iranian. This also shows that this language belongs to a transitional stage between 
OIA and MIA. Further, this language is comparable to the language of the Indus 
seals as deciphered by S. R. Rao. And this language is the base for Buddhist 
Hybrid Sanskrit, which was wrongly named Hybrid because of a misconception 
that it was a mixed language. 

Thus, the language of Middle Indo-Aryan is much before the Asokan Prakrit. 
And on the basis of the borrowed words in Anatolian records and the language 
of the Indus seals as deciphered by S. R. Rao the date of MIA may go beyond 
2000 bc. The transitional stage between OIA and MIA might have started in 
2500 bc. 

These loan words are also important in showing that Indo-Aryans were going 
to the Anatolian area in such ancient times. This is fully confirmed by the bor- 
rowed words. Further if India is taken as the original home of Indo-Aryans, then 
the Anatolians, including Hittites, Luwian, Lycians, Lydians etc., also have their 



original home in India. These borrowed words point out the possibility that 
because the Anatolians were originally Indo- Aryans, there was a link with the 
Indo-Aryans, and the Indo-Aryans could reach the Anatolian area even in the 
transitional MIA period. 

6.8 Evidence from Pamir and the shore of the Caspian Sea 
for Aryan migration 

After the IE language family was discovered, it was felt by scholars that India was 
definitely the original home of Indo-Europeans, because Sanskrit, which was 
almost like Proto-IE, was the language of India. This is indirectly expressed by 
H. L. Gray. "The earliest investigators were quite certain that it was in Asia, the 
continent which was the source of oldest civilization, the traditional site of the 
garden of Eden, and where Sanskrit was spoken" (1950: 304-5). Here Gray has 
used "Asia" instead of "India". This shows how scholars were wary of using the 
name of India, which was enslaved by the British. 

Therefore, after rejecting India, they first considered Pamir to be the original 
home of the Aryans, because Pamir was very close to India. But subsequently 
they preferred to shift the original home farther from Pamir to the shore of the 
Caspian Sea. 

Now let us examine the fresh evidence from Pamir and the shore of the Caspian 
Sea in terms of how far these places deserve to be termed the original home of 
the Aryans in the light of recent linguistic and archaeological researches. 

First of all let us take up the case of Pamir. Several scholars have studied 
the Pamiri dialects in detail. D. Karamshoyev has shown that the Pamiri 
dialects belong to the Indo-Iranian branch. Some forms are quoted from 
Karamshoyev's analysis (1981: 230-7). The Sanskrit forms given in parentheses 
are added by me. 

Shugn may, Rush mew, Yazg mitw, Tadzh mes 'sheep', Av maesi (cp 

Skt mesa). 
Shugn, Rush zow, Bart zaw, Yazg yew, Bax yiw, Tadzh gow, Av gov-, gam, 

Skt gav-, gauh 'cow'. 
Shugn %ij, Rush xoj, Bart xoj, Av uxsab, Skt uksan 'bull'. 
Shugn, Rush, Bart vaz 'goat', Tadzh buz, Av buza-. 
Shugn, Rush, Bart poc 'protection of cattle', Av padra (not in Bartholomae 

Shugn xuvd, Rush, Bart xuvd- 'milk', Tadzh Sir, Av xSvipta- 'milked', xSvid- 

'milk', Sogd xfypt- ( C P Skt kslra- 'milk', ksipta 'spilled'). 
Shugn ^eS-, Rush xe8, Bard x°d, Yazg xad, Vax sad- 'summer sheepfold for 

Shugn x°S, Rush x u & 'house garden', Tadzh saroy, Av say- (cp Skt ksiti, 

Shugn wun, Rush wawn, Bart wown 'sheep wool', Av vardna-, Skt urna-. 



Shugn, Rush zimc, Vane zamc, Av zam 'land' (cp SktyTwa, 'earth', 'land'). 
Shugn yaw, Sogd vw, Mundzh you, Yazg zuw, Osset yoew 'millet', Av yava- 

(cp Skt yava). 
Shugn pinj, Rushpinj 'millet', Kashmiri pinga, Skt priyangu, Lat panicum. 
Shugn, Rush ka\t, Rush ka\ta 'seed', Tadzh hist, Av Karsta (cp Skt krsta). 
Shugn ser, Rush ser, Bart, Rosh sor, Ba^ sor 'yield'. 
Shugn, Rush pi\t, Yazg paxt, Tadzh pist 'oat flour', Skt pista 'pound'. 

A study of Pamiri dialects brings us to assume the following assumption: some 
of the Indo-Aryans left their homeland India and went to Iran and became 
Iranians and some of them went subsequently to Pamir. Thus, Pamir was not the 
original homeland of Aryans; rather India was the original homeland, from which 
Aryans went to Pamir, through Iran, and settled. 

A study of the Pamiri dialects shows that they belong to the Indo-Iranian 
branch. They show significant linguistic change and it is quite likely that the 
Aryans went from India to Iran, and that they might have gone to Pamir from Iran 
or might have gone to Pamir directly from India and settled there. The Pamiri 
dialects present much later forms. They give us no linguistic evidence that Pamir 
was the original homeland of the Aryans. On the other hand, the linguistic 
changes which they exhibit clearly show that they represent dialects which belong 
to a later stage of Iranian or Indo-Aryan. 

Now let us discuss the case for the shore of the Caspian Sea being the orig- 
inal home of the Aryans on the basis of older and recent linguistic and archae- 
ological studies. After India and Pamir were discarded, the northern shore of the 
Caspian Sea, as suggested by Schrader, was widely accepted as the original home 
of the Aryans. The linguistic basis utilized by Schrader was applicable to this area 
to a great extent. Comparative evidence was taken from various IE languages and 
some common objects were considered to be items existing in the IE speech com- 
munity, but one point was perhaps ignored. When people migrate from their origi- 
nal home and spread over a big area they may acquire several new things common 
in this area, and thus found in all the dialects spread here. The linguistic chronology 
of forms should also be taken into account while selecting the items to attribute to 
the original homeland. From this point of view, the following items are the most 
important and deserve special attention: 

1 They knew the following animals: 

Horse: cp Skt asva, Av aspa, Tokh yakwe, yuk, Gk -hippos, Venetic ecu- 

peQaris (= 'charioteer'), Lat equus, Olrish ech, OE ech, Lith aszva 'mare'. 
Bear: cp Skt rksa, Av ardsa, Arm arj, Gk drktos, Alb ari, Lat ursus, Mid 

Irish art. 
Hare: cp Skt sasa, Afgan soya, soe, Welsh Ceinach, OHG haso, NE hare, 

O Pruss sasins. 
Wolf: cp Skt vrka, Av vdhrka-, Arm gayl, Gk lukos, Lat lupus, Goth wulfs, 

NE wolf, Lith vilkas, OCS vluku. 



2 They knew the following trees: 

Birch: cp Skt bhurja, Ossetic barz, NE birch, Dacian (place name) bersovia, 
Lat froxinus 'ash', OHG bircha, NHG birke, OE birce, Lith berzas, Russ 

Willow: cp Av vaetay-, Gk itea, Lat vitis 'vine', OHG wida, Lith vytis. 

Pine: cp Skt pita-dam, Gk pitus, Alb pishe, LatpTnus. 

3 They knew the following metals: 

Gold: cp Skt hataka, hiranya, Av zaranya, NE goW. 

Silver: cp Skt rajata, Av drdzata, Gk arguros. 

Iron: cp Skt oyas, Av ayah-, Lat aes 'copper', Gaulish isarno, OHG isarn, 

NHG eisen, NE ;>o«. 
Copper: cp Skt /aw/ia (later 'iron'), Middle Persian rod, Lat raudus. 

4 They knew snow: 

cp Skt hima, Av zima, Gk khelma, Lat hiems, Lith sziema, OCS z;>w, Arm jiwn. 

On the basis of these important items, India equally deserves to be considered the 
original home of Aryans and the shore of the Caspian Sea, the place where Aryans 
came to from India and where they settled for some time, may be accepted as the 
original home of the Centum branch of Indo-European. The original Indo- 
European proto-speech, which was very close to Sanskrit, might have undergone 
several changes here. 

The shore of the Caspian Sea was most probably the area where the innovating 
Centum group was separated from the more original Satam group by many 
linguistic changes such as a > a, e, o; s > k etc. From this place Centum speakers 
might have traveled to different parts of Europe and Anatolia etc. But before the 
Satam-Centum distinction went beyond the dialect level, there was mutual intel- 
ligibility, and the Indo-European speakers might have traveled to this place from 
India (their original home). This hypothesis is based on the fact that the Indo- 
Aryans returned to this area repeatedly in both very early periods and later peri- 
ods, for which there is some archaeological and linguistic evidence. 

Caucasus, which is on the shore of the Caspian Sea, presents archaeological 
evidence which shows traces of the horse cult in the late second and early first 
millennium bc in the vicinity of the Mingechaur reservoir, as shown by Igrar 
Aliyer and M. N. Pogrebova (1981: 126-36). 

The horse cult is equally Indo-Aryan and Iranian. In fact we have more 
Indo-Aryan evidence for it. Thus, the horse cult speaks of Indo-Aryan 
presence in the second millenium bc and Iranian presence at a later period in 
the Caucasus area. This makes it probable that the original home of the 
Indo- Aryans was the original home of the Indo-Europeans. On the basis of the 
evidence cited above, it is quite likely that India was the original home of 
the Indo-Europeans, from which they traveled toward the Caspian Sea, where 
the innovating Centum group was separated with generalization of k, which 
developed from s before s. 



Linguistic evidence as presented by Harmatta confirms the above archaeo- 
logical evidence (1981: 79-80). Harmatta showed the word for horse found 
in Caucasian languages as being borrowed from Indo-Iranian in various early 
and late periods, for example, Udi ek 'horse' (this is borrowed according to 
Harmatta in 4000 bc). Other evidence also is found in different phases of 
borrowing. In NW Caucasian languages the examples are Circassian sd, 
Kabardian sd 'horse', Abkaz a-cd 'the horse'. In the SW Caucasian languages 
the following loan words are available Lak cu, also cp Khinalug spa 'ass, colt' 
(maybe from Iranian aspa), but khinalug psa (<*b-sd), cp also Chechen 
gaur, Ingush gaur 'horse' < Ilr gaura, cp Vedic gaura 'wild cow', Persian gor 
'wild ass'. 

The loan word for horse affirms that the horse cult was taken from India at 
a very early period (Harmatta 's date is 4000 bc). Harmatta cited other loan words 
as well, for example, Kurin yab 'handful' < Skt gabha, cp also gabhasti 'ray', 
Batsian hdc 'to see' < Proto-Indian/Proto-Iranian kac 'to see' (4000 bc), 
Chechen, Ingush mar 'husband' (<Skt marya). Harmatta concludes: "In spite of 
the paucity of this linguistic evidence, these ancient Proto-Iranian or Proto-Indian 
loan words to be found in the Caucasian languages offer a valuable testimony 
of the advance of Proto-Iranian or Proto-Indian tribes toward Caucasus at a 
very early date." Thus, it is clear that the Aryans moved from India through Iran 
to the Caucasus in several waves in very early periods as well as in later periods, 
and in some later phases Iranians also might have gone there, and the horse cult 
was introduced into the Caucasus by the Aryans (i.e. the Indo-Aryans) as early as 
4000 bc. 

This evidence also confirms that the date of the Rigveda is before 5000 bc. This 
also sheds light on the fact that Indo-Aryans were migrating toward these areas 
beginning from 4000 bc and continuing in subsequent periods, which strengthens 
our hypothesis that India was the original home of the Aryans. 

6.9 Evidence from the horse for the date of the 
Rigveda and Aryan migration 

'Horse' was well known to the Indo-European language family and we have 
cognates of this word in almost all the IE languages, cp Skt asva, Av aspa, OP asa 
also OP aspa (< Median), Lith aszva, Gk hippos, Lat equus, call epo, Olrish ech, 
Goth aihva etc. 

But domestication of the horse was in a way a monopoly of the Indo-Aryans. 
The horse was used for several domestic purposes like cultivation etc. Besides, 
the horse was also yoked to the chariot. Wherever we find archaeological 
evidence of the Indo-Aryans we often find equine bones. That Indo-Aryans were 
going to different places is often proved by the availability of equine bones 
in some areas as archaeological evidence and the loan words for horse found in 
some areas as linguistic evidence. 



The Indus civilization is now claimed to be Indo-Aryan on the basis of the 
linguistic evidence and the archaeological evidence in terms of the availability of 
equine bones. 

Harmatta showed loan words for horse taken from Indo-Aryan (which he 
named Indo-Iranian) found in many languages outside India. Harmatta 's exam- 
ples of loan words of horse from Indo-Aryan, were given earlier (Section 6.8) and 
are repeated here: 

NW Caucasian languages: 

Udi ek 'horse' (4000 bc - chronology by Harmatta), Circassion sd, 

Kabardian sd, 'horse', Abkhaz a-cd 'the horse'. 

SE Caucasian languages: 

Lak cu, Khinalug psd (< b-sd). 

Khinalug spa 'ass', 'colt'. 

Chechen gaur, Ingush gour 'horse' < Pers gor 'wild ass' (cp RV gaura 'wild 


The loan words in various Caucasian languages prove that the Indo-Aryans 
were coming to these areas in various periods beginning from 4000 bc, and that 
the horse cult came to these areas with them. 

Although there is no controversy that Indo-Aryans were responsible for 
domesticating the horse, Malati J. Shendge attempted to show that Indo-Aryans 
or Indo-Europeans were not responsible for the domestication of the horse. In 
the Anatolian loan words connected with horse training, we clearly find Indo- 
Aryan loan words, even though the person who wrote them, Kikkuli of Mitanni, 
may not have been Indo-Aryan: aika-wartana, panza-wartana, tetawartana, 
sattawartana, and nawartana (= nava-vanana) are definitely more important 
than the person who used them. The controversy is resolved, and now nobody 
takes them to be anything other than Indo-Aryan. 

But Shendge has tried to prove that the word for horse is not IE and is a loan 
available in almost all IE languages. The Greek word hippos shows further 
linguistic change. The expected form in Greek should have been *eppos. In a 
few other, rare forms e has become i in words in Greek, for example, Gk 
isthi <*esthi < IE ezdhi. The initial aspiration may be analogical. On the basis of 
a slight defective cognate, Shendge rejects it. Taking a rather rare and obscure 
word, sisa, he interprets it as 'horse' and takes the word as a loan word from 
Akkadian sisu, which means 'horse', concluding that the Indo-Aryans learnt 
domestication of the horse from the Akkadians. 

There are many new facts which were unknown to Shendge. The date of the 
Rigveda now has gone beyond 5000 bc. The Indus Valley civilization is now 
known to be preferably Indo-Aryan. There is also the probability that Dravidian 
and Indo-Aryan belong to one language family. The date of the Rigveda on the 



basis of the present estimate antedates many other civilizations. And evidence 
of the domestication of the horse is fully attested in the Indian literature from 
Vedic to Puranic times. The knowledge of Indo-Aryans being responsible for the 
domestication of the horse is found in loan words for horse in many languages, as 
shown earlier. 

Many scholars, including Harmatta and Ghirshman, on the basis of the former 
theory of the original home of the Aryans have proposed that the Indo-Aryans/ 
Iranians came from the shore of the Caspian Sea while going toward Iran and 
India. But the loan words cited as evidence belong to various periods; therefore, 
it is more plausible to assume that their original home was India and they went to 
these places repeatedly in various periods, and thus that the loan words for 
horse show linguistic changes of various periods both in the source language 
(Indo-Aryan) and the borrowing languages. 

It may be worthwhile here to give an example of how scholars without 
knowing the true context of a fact often misunderstand it and feel happy that 
they have created unanswerable questions. The following is quoted from 

If Kikkuli's treatise on horse training is made the basis of the conclu- 
sion that the Indo-Europeans were the original horse domesticators, it 
raises several unanswerable questions. For example, it is curious that 
if the Indo-Europeans had the knowledge of horse breedings, why 
should the Hittites not have known it as a matter of course? But instead 
we find them looking to Mitannian Hurrain, not even an Indo-Aryan 
proper or his ancestor, for being initiated into the technique! And 
it's all the more curious that this Mitannian Hurrian should use only 
a few technical terms, probably four of five, from Proto Indo-Aryan 
and the terms for horse etc., from Sumerian and Akkadian (that's 
what we have to say for lack of better evidence) - this situation seems 
to arise because the available evidence is somewhere wrongly oriented. 
And that point lies in the assumption that the horse-breeders were 

The linguistic evidence in Sanskrit for the purposes of comparison 
is mainly the term asva, horse. It has been compared with Lat equus, 
despite the intervening centuries between the two words, and several 
continents. Skt asva is treated as a primary root without any prehistory. It 
is also assumed that the Hurrian iss (ia) 'horse' is derived from asva. 
Even Akkadian sisu 'horse' is derived from the Indo-Aryan asva is said 
to be a loan from the Aryan branch. Asva does not occur in Kikkuli's 
work, but 5± Indie words are found used. On the basis of these 5± words, 
the originators of the art of horse breeding in the ancient world are said 
to be the migrating Indo-Aryan clans. If this is the criterion, the 
Sumerians and the Akkadians should be given a chance. More than these, 



Kikkuli being a Mitannian-Hurrian, the Hurrians should really be the 
horse breeders. 

(1977, 1996) 1 

Shendge, not knowing the five Indo-Aryan words aikavartana etc., has 
toiled hard without any evidence to prove that horse training was taken from 
Akkadian or Sumerian, citing the Indo-Europeans and at other times the 
Indo-Aryans as horse breeders. The cognates for Sanskrit asva 'horse' are found 
in the IE languages, as shown earlier. The Indo-Aryans were the domesticators of 
the horse. And the Anatolians are definitely Indo-European, but they had left their 
original home, India, without knowledge of horse breeding or horse training and 
hence, they borrowed it from the Indo-Aryan source through Kikkuli of Mittani. 
Other branches of IE might have learnt horse domestication from the Indo- 
Aryans, since the Indo-Aryans were masters in this art. It is easy to explain 
Hurrian issi(a) and Akkadian sisu as loan words from Indo-Aryan, since Middle 
Indo-Aryan has already started by that time. The word satta (<Skt sapta) is 
evidence for this. Similarly, MIA assa (<Skt asvai) might have become Hurrian 
issia and Akkadian sisu. 

Thus, the evidence of the horse proves the antiquity of Sanskrit as well as 
the fact that Indo-Aryans were going to various parts of the world in different 
periods of prehistory. 

6.10 Concluding observations 

The linguistic structure of Sanskrit demands an archaic status for it in the IE 
language family. Other historical IE languages such as Avestan or Greek are 
like daughters of Sanskrit on the basis of linguistic changes. Greek was given 
an archaic status on the basis of the retention of the a, e, o of IE, but evidence 
from the Gypsy languages conclusively proves that the a of Indo-Aryan was 
changed into a, e, o in European Gypsy. A similar change of a to a, e, o is quite 
likely in an earlier period. The change of IE palatal k to palatal /in Sanskrit is also 
doubtful because Sanskrit itself shows change of palatal d to k as a positional vari- 
ation. Thus, Sanskrit deserves a highly archaic status and on the basis of the 
archaic linguistic structure a much earlier date than the date given by European 

The Uralic languages show loan words from the early Vedic stage up to the 
New Indo-Aryan Stage. Harmatta ascribed 5000 bc as the date for the earliest 
loan words, which he worked out on the basis of linguistic changes. He showed 
the oldest form to be Ilr. But I have shown that the earliest loan words belong to 
the Rigvedic stage. Therefore, the date of Rigveda must go beyond 5000 bc. 

The Indus civilization culturally and linguistically presents a continuation of 
the Vedic civilization. The apparent non-similarity of the rural civilization of the 



Rigveda and the urban civilization of the Indus Valley can be solved by taking 
Indus civilization as a later development of the Vedic civilization. 

The language of the Indus seals as deciphered by S. R. Rao (if accepted) presents 
the language of a very early stage of MIA which belongs to a transitional stage 
between OIA and MIA. But until a bilingual seal is available the decipherment may 
remain controversial. 

The study of the Indo-Aryan loan words in Anatolian shows a similar 
language, which is also early MIA, belonging to a transitional stage between OIA 
and MIA. Therefore, we may ascribe 2500-2000 bc as a date for the transi- 
tional stage between OIA and MIA and 2000 bc as the starting point of MIA 

Epic Sanskrit, which is the earliest stage of classical Sanskrit may be tenta- 
tively placed between 5000 bc (the date of RV) and 2000 bc (the date of MIA), 
that is, about 3500 bc. Tentatively we date the Ramayana of Valmiki to 3500 bc 
and the Mahabhamta of Krsnadvaipayana Vyasa to about 3000 bc, since the lan- 
guage of the two does not differ much. The theory that the Mahabhamta precedes 
the Ramayana is baseless. 

The archaic structure of Sanskrit and the dating of the Rigveda as beyond 
5000 bc demand that India, the place of composition of the Rigveda, must be the 
original home of the Indo- Aryans as well as the Iranians. Iranian literature refers 
to an earlier place of residence, namely, Haptahindu, which is the Saptasindhu of 
the Rigveda. Thereby their original home in India is also confirmed. Indo-Aryans 
in their earliest literature of the Vedas and Puranas never speak of any original 
home and there is no literary or archaeological evidence nor any tradition in India 
which refers to any former place. Therefore, we are sure that India is the original 
home of the Indo-Aryans and the Iranians. I have shown above that Iranian is the 
second most archaic language in the IE language family. If India is the original 
home of the Indo-Iranians, there is a fair chance that it is the original home of the 

Although there is no evidence that Indo-Aryans came to India from outside, 
there is enough evidence that they went outside India again and again in 
prehistoric times. The loan words in the Uralic languages provide evidence of 
Indo-Aryans going to the Uralic area from 5000 bc (i.e. Rigvedic times) up to the 
New Indo-Aryan period. The Caucasian languages also speak of the going of the 
Indo-Aryans to this place several times. 

Indo-Aryan loan words in Chinese and Korean also give some evidence that 
Indo-Aryans were migrating to various other places in prehistoric times. The 
Indo-Aryan loan words attested in Chinese and Korean are placed in the 
second-third millennium bc by Harmatta, who, however, wrongly calls them 
proto-Iranian (1981: 81). He says, "Finally we still have to give some hints about 
the migration of Proto-Iranians (= Indo-Aryans) toward Eastern Asia." The loan 
words, although few in number, are significant enough to attest the presence of 
Indo-Aryan speakers in those areas. The loan words from Chinese and Korean 



taken from Harmatta are cited next. The Sanskrit forms are supplied by me, to 
show they are more Indo-Aryan than Iranian. 


Forms shown here are archaic Chinese forms reconstructed by Harmatta. 

*k'an 'cut', cp Skt khan 'dig', Av x an - 

*g'wan 'martial', cp Skt han/ghan-, Av yan-/jan. 

*dz'cwan 'create', cp Skt jan 'create', Ay zan. 

*swdn 'grandson', cp Skt sunu, Av hunu. 

*akk 'bad, evil, wrong', cp Skt agha 'evil, bad', Av aya. 


pad- 'field', cp Skt pada-, Ay pada- 'foot', 'place'. 

yoka 'bind', cp Skt yukta 'bound', Av yao\ta. 

sul 'wine', cp Skt surd 'id.', Av hura. 

sena 'old', cp Skt sana- 'id.' 

Although Harmatta took the source of borrowing to be Proto-Iranian and Proto- 
Indian (= Indo-Aryan), actually the forms are mostly Indo-Aryan and a few 
forms may be Iranian. Of these, Indo-Aryan forms may be early borrowings and 
Iranian forms may be late borrowings. 

These loan words clearly show that Indo-Aryans were going out to various 
places in various periods. Thus, this helps us in taking India as the original home 
of Aryans, by supplying evidence of people going out to other distant places like 
China and Korea in ancient times. 

In this way Indo-Aryans migrated to several parts of Europe and Asia in 
prehistoric times. In the historical period, which is linguistically the starting 
period of NIA, the Gypsies had gone out to Asia and Europe in the fourth century 
bc. Therefore, we have enough evidence that Indo-Aryans were migrating in pre- 
historical and historical periods, but we have no evidence which shows that they 
had come from outside. The story coined by some Western scholars that Aryans 
came from outside and destroyed the Indus civilization is now altogether to be 
dropped. The Indus civilization is now accepted as a continuation of the Vedic 
civilization, especially since the fire altars were discovered. Another, older theory 
that the Indo-Aryans drove away the Dravidians to the South is also a totally false 
assumption. There is no such archaeological or literary evidence nor tradition 
anywhere in India. 

Classification of Dravidian as a separate race or as a separate language family 
is a hasty conclusion, because no proper linguistic comparison of Indo-Aryan and 
Dravidian has ever been attempted. The Dravidians are also Aryans. 

There are many common words in Dravidian and Indo-Aryan which are taken 
as loan words from one to the other, since no proper comparison has been made 
as yet. There are phonological and morphological similarities. The structure of 
Dravidian as examined by me is to a great extent of the New Indo-Aryan type. 



Therefore, there is no question of the Indo-Aryans driving away the Dravidians. 
Thus, there is no doubt that India was the original home of the Indo-Aryans 
(including the Dravidians) and the Iranians and it is wholly possible that it was 
the original home of the Aryans, that is, Indo-Europeans, since there is enough 
evidence that Indo-Aryans were migrating in historic and prehistoric times. Other 
branches of Indo-European, in contrast, present sufficient evidence that they have 
come from outside. 

The Greek people came to Greece from outside: "The invading Greek tribes 
were rude Barbarians, they destroyed the Minoan-Mycenean civilisation" (Ghose 
1979: 33). "Numerous inscriptions in non-Greek languages prove beyond every 
doubt the existence of an older civilisation in the Aegean World" (p. 35). 

The Hittites also went to the later Hittite empire from outside. "The original 
Hatti were a people of Central Asia Minor, whose name and some of whose gods 
the Hittites adopted along with capital city Hattus (Ht hattusas) . . . conqueror and 
conquered had been completely amalgamated" (Sturtevant 1951: 4). 

The Germanic people also show evidence of coming from outside. "The ear- 
liest known home of Germanic was South Scandinavia and North Germany. But 
at the beginning of the historical period, it was decidedly expansive. In the first 
century bc the Suevi are seen to have moved southwards and to have crossed to 
the left bank of the Rhine. To the east, other tribes were taking possession of land 
in Central and South Germany and in Bohemia. All these gains were, it is 
believed, on the territory previously in the hands of celts" (Lockwood 1972: 95). 
From this it is quite likely that the Germanic people first of all reached South 
Scandinavia and North Germany and spread into other parts at the expense of 
the Celts. 

But the Celtic people were in turn also outsiders. "Judging by references in 
Greek writings and by archaeological evidence, Celtic tribesmen began to move 
into the Balkan area and settle among Illyrians and Thracians during the course 
of the fourth century bc. They burst into Greece, but were repulsed . . ." 
(Lockwood 1972: 95). 

The Slavs also reached the Slavonic area coming from outside. "The Slavs have 
expanded enormously at the expense of the speakers of Finno-Ugrian and Baltic 
languages. The Volga was Finnish, and so also the Don area and Moscow. In the 
north the Baltic Lithuanians held the basins of the Niemen and the Dvino. None 
of these wild tracts could have been included in the original habitat of the Slavs" 
(Ghose 1979: 148). 

The Iranian people were not originally from Iran. They went to Iran from India 
(Section 6.6). Other Indo-European languages present records of a recent date. 
They must have gone to those places much later. There is no basis for these places 
to be treated as original home of Aryans. 

India presents the oldest record of the Indo-European language family. The 
language of the Rigveda shows archaism unparalleled by any other branch 
of Indo-European. India is also considered by several scholars as the best 
place for the origin of human beings. Taking all these factors into account, it seems 



quite likely that India was the original home of the Aryans (or Indo-Europeans). 
The date of the Rigveda, as shown earlier, must be beyond or much beyond 
5000 bc. 














































Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit 

Braj bhasa 








Hieroglyphic Hittite 















Middle Indo-Aryan 


New English 


New High German 

New Indo-Aryan 

Old Church Slavic 

Old High German 




Old Indo-Aryan 


Old Iranian 


Old Persian 


































The present work is a revised and enlarged version often lectures delivered by me in 
the Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Pune, during August 1997. 

Two decades earlier, in 1977, I had visited the USSR as a delegate of the 
Government of India, where I had to attend a symposium on the Aryan problem, 
held in Dushanbe, the capital of the then Soviet Tajikistan. I was asked to present a 
paper on "The Bearing of the Indo-European Comparative Grammar on the Aryan 
Problem". I am chiefly a scholar of Indo-European comparative linguistics and 
I have written comparative grammars of several Indo-European languages. The 
Aryan problem was untouched by me as a researcher. While collecting material for 
my paper, I realized that many of the existing theories were rather blindly accepted 
by scholars. While taking part in the discussions of the symposium, I was convinced 
that I should work more diligently in this line and contribute some of my busy hours 
to solving some of the questions of the Aryan problem. The result of my further 
research was published in 1992, with the title The Aryan Problem: A Linguistic 
Approach, where I have dealt with several aspects of the problem like the date of 
the Rigveda, the original home of the Aryans, as well as iron, cotton, and several 
other items related with the problems of the Aryans. 

Since I remained interested in this problem I was automatically making further 
studies on the date of the Rigveda and the original home of the Aryans, along with 
my research on the comparative grammar of Indo-European. 

When I was asked to deliver lectures on this topic by the Director of the Centre of 
Advanced Study in Sanskrit, I decided to include all my further researches in my 



lectures. By this time, I was convinced that languages like Greek, Hittite, Avestan, 
etc. are, from the point of view of linguistic structure, comparable to Middle 
Indo-Aryan, as they show many linguistic changes like loss of final consonants, 
assimilation of heterogeneous consonants, syncretism etc. Therefore, on the basis of 
antiquity in structure, Sanskrit deserves a much more ancient date than Greek, 
Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian etc. Formerly Greek was given the second place from 
the point of view of the antiquity of structure for retention of IE a, e, o but in 
this work I have conclusively shown that a, e, o are late developments in Greek 
and other languages, and Sanskrit a as proposed by Schleicher, Bopp, Grimm etc. 
presents the original picture of the Indo-European vowel. Thus, now, Iranian gets the 
second position in antiquity. Other evidence is also presented as complementary. 

K. C. Verma, an Indologist, drew my attention to the comparison of Dravidian 
and Indo-Aryan made by R. Swaminath Aiyar. 

In my Aryan Problem: A Linguistic Approach I devoted some pages to the 
common origin of Dravidian and Indo-Aryan, my studies for which were based 
chiefly on the researches of R. Swaminath Aiyar and J. Harmatta. After studying 
that part of my book, one young American scholar, Edwin F. Bryant, asked me to 
make a full-fledged study of this area. As I was busy with several other 
researches, I asked Dr Sushila Devi, my former student, to work in this line. She 
has done a lot of work, constantly consulting me and discussing issues with me. 
I have taken some points from this unpublished material and added them here to 
bring to the notice of scholars that Dravidian is comparable to New Indo-Aryan, 
both chronologically and structurally. 

Lastly, I must thank some scholars who have helped me considerably by send- 
ing some books and articles/photocopies of books and chapters which made my 
research more complete than it could have been. They are K. C. Verma, Krsna 
Deva and Edwin F. Bryant. 

I am grateful to Professor V N. Jha, Director, Centre of Advanced Study in 
Sanskrit, who invited me to give this lecture and who expressed his keen interest 
in its publication. I will be happy if my humble effort is useful for the enrichment 
of the knowledge of Proto-Indo-European language and culture. 


1 Misra passed away prior to editing his paper in which he did not provide the full 
bibliographic specifics of this quote from Shendge. Since neither of the latter's 
two books were available to the editors, both publications have been noted here, 
unfortunately without the relevant page number. 

2 As is clear from Lai's paper in this volume, Lai no longer upholds the views he held 
in 1981, to which Misra is here referring, and now critiques the very views to which 
he once subscribed. Unfortunately, as we noted, Misra has passed away and can thus 
not update his paper, but we have retained this section since Lai's views in 1981 are still 
widely held by others and, moreover, since the development of Lai's published state- 
ments on this issue exemplifies the change in paradigm which considerable numbers of 
South Asian archaeologists and historians of ancient India have undergone since the 
1980's- Editors. 




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Koenraad Elst 

7.1 Summary 

It is widely assumed that linguistics has provided the clinching evidence for the 
Aryan invasion theory (AIT) and for a non-Indian homeland of the Indo-European 
(IE) language family. Defenders of an "Out of India" theory (OIT) of IE expansion 
unwittingly confirm this impression by rejecting linguistics itself or its basic para- 
digms, such as the concept of IE language family. However, old linguistic props of 
the AIT, such as linguistic paleontology or glottochronology, have lost their persua- 
siveness. On closer inspection, currently dominant theories turn out to be compat- 
ible with an out-of-India scenario for IE expansion. In particular, substratum data 
are not in conflict with an IE homeland in Haryana-Panjab. It would, however, be 
rash to claim positive linguistic proof for the OIT. As a fairly soft type of evidence, 
linguistic data are presently compatible with a variety of scenarios. 

7.2 Preliminary remarks 

7.2.7 Invasion versus immigration 

The theory of which we are about to discuss the linguistic evidence, is widely 
known as the "Aryan invasion theory" (AIT). I will retain this term even though 
some scholars object to it, preferring the term "immigration" to "invasion." They 
argue that the latter term represents a long-abandoned theory of Aryan warrior 
bands attacking and subjugating the peaceful Indus civilization. This dramatic 
scenario, popularized by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, had white marauders from the 
northwest enslave the black aboriginals, so that "Indra stands accused" of destroy- 
ing the Harappan civilization. Only the extremist fringe of the Indian Dalit 
(ex-Untouchable) movement and its Afrocentric allies in the USA now insist on 
this black-and-white narrative (vide Rajshekar 1987; Biswas 1995). 

But, for this once, I believe the extremists have a point. North India's linguistic 
landscape leaves open only two possible explanations: either Indo- Aryan was 
native, or it was imported in an invasion. In fact, scratch any of these emphatic 



"immigration" theorists and you'll find an old-school invasionist, for they never 
fail to connect Aryan immigration with horses and spoked-wheel chariots, that is, 
with factors of military superiority. 

Immigration means a movement from one country to another, without the 
connotation of conquest; invasion, by contrast, implies conquest or at least the 
intention of conquest. To be sure, invasion is not synonymous with military 
conquest; it may be that, but it may also be demographic Unterwanderung. What 
makes an immigration into an invasion is not the means used but the end achieved: 
after an invasion, the former outsiders are not merely in, as in an immigration, but 
they are also in charge. If the newcomers end up imposing their (cultural, reli- 
gious, linguistic) identity rather than adopting the native identity, the result is the 
same as it would have been in the case of a military conquest, namely that out- 
siders have made the country their own, and that natives who remain true to their 
identity (such as Native Americans in the USA) become strangers or second-class 
citizens in their own country. 

In the case of the hypothetical Aryan invasion, the end result clearly is that 
North India got aryanized. The language of the Aryans marginalized or replaced 
all others. In a popular variant of the theory, they even reduced the natives to per- 
manent subjugation through the caste system. So, whether or not there was a 
destructive Aryan conquest, the result was at any rate the humiliation of native 
culture and the elimination of the native language in the larger part of India. It is 
entirely reasonable to call this development an "invasion" and to speak of the 
prevalent paradigm as the "Aryan invasion theory." 

As far as I can see, the supposedly invading Aryans could only initiate a process 
of language replacement by a scenario of elite dominance (that much is accepted by 
most invasionists), which means that they first had to become the ruling class. 
Could they have peacefully immigrated and then worked their way up in society, 
somewhat like the Jews in pre- War Vienna or in New York? The example given 
illustrates a necessary ingredient of peaceful immigration, namely, linguistic adap- 
tation: in spite of earning many positions of honor and influence in society, the Jews 
never imposed their language like the Aryans supposedly did, but became proficient 
in the native languages instead. So how could these Aryan immigrants first peace- 
fully integrate into Harappan or post-Harappan society yet preserve their language 
and later even impose it on their host society? Neither their numbers, relative to 
the very numerous natives, nor their cultural level, as illiterate cowherds relative to 
a literate civilization, gave them much of an edge over the natives. 

Therefore, the only plausible way for them to wrest power from the natives must 
have been by their military superiority, tried and tested in the process of an actual 
conquest. Possibly there were some twists to the conquest scenario, making it more 
complicated than a simple attack, for example, some Harappan faction in a civil 
war may have invited an Aryan mercenary army which, after doing its job, over- 
stayed its welcome and dethroned its employers. But at least some kind of military 
showdown should necessarily have taken place. As things now stand, the Aryan 
"immigration" theory necessarily implies the hypothesis of military conquest. 



7.2.2 The archaeological argument from silence 

This chapter will give a sympathizing account of 'the prima facie arguments in favor 
of the OIT of IE expansion. I am not sure that this theory is correct, indeed I will 
argue that the linguistic body of evidence is inconclusive, but I do believe that the 
theory deserves a proper hearing. In the past, it didn't get one because the academic 
establishment simply hadn't taken serious notice. Now that this has changed for the 
better, it becomes clear that the all-important linguistic aspect of the question has 
never been properly articulated by "Out of India" theorists. The OIT invokes archae- 
ological and textual evidence, but doesn't speak the language of the IE linguists who 
thought up the AIT in the first place. So, now, I take it upon myself to show that the 
OIT need not be linguistic nonsense. 

But first a glimpse of the archaeological debate. In a recent paper, two prominent 
archaeologists, Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein (1999), argue that there is 
absolutely no archeaological indication of an Aryan immigration into northwest- 
ern India during or after the decline of the Harappan city culture. It is odd that the 
other participants in this debate pay so little attention to this categorical finding, 
so at odds with the expectations of the AIT orthodoxy, but so in line with majority 
opinion among Indian archaeologists (e.g. Rao 1992; Lai 1998). 

The absence of archaeological evidence for the AIT is also admitted with erudite 
reference to numerous recent excavations and handy explanations of the types of 
evidence recognized in archaeology, by outspoken invasionist Shereen Ratnagar 
(1999). It then becomes her job to explain why the absence of material testimony 
of such a momentous invasion need not rule out the possibility that the invasion 
took place nonetheless. Thus, she mentions parallel cases of known yet archae- 
ologically unidentifiable invasions, for example, the Goths in late-imperial 
Rome or the Akkadians in southern Mesopotamia (Ratnagar 1999: 222-3). So, 
in archaeology even more than elsewhere, we should not make too much of an 
argumentum e silentio. 

To quote her own conclusion: 

We have found that the nature of material residues and the units of 
analysis in archaeology do not match or fit the phenomenon we wish to 
investigate, viz. Aryan migrations. The problem is exacerbated by the 
strong possibility that simultaneous with migrations out of Eurasia there 
were expansions out of established centres by metallurgists/prospectors. 
Last, when we investigate pastoral land use in the Eurasian steppe, we 
can make informed inferences about the nature of Aryan emigration 
thence, which is a kind of movement very unlikely to have had artefactual 

(Ratnagar 1999: 234) 

It is against the stereotype of overbearing macho invaders, but the Aryans 
secretively stole their way into India, careful not to leave any traces. 



7.2.3 Paradigmatic expectation as a distortive factor 

If the Aryan invasion does not stand disproven by the absence of definite 
archaeological pointers, then neither does an Aryan emigration from India. However, 
there is one difference. Because several generations of archaeologists have been 
taught the AIT, they have in their evaluation of new evidence tried to match it with 
the AIT; in this, they have failed so far. However, it is unlikely that they have explored 
the possibility of matching the new findings with the reverse migration scenario. 
Psychologically, they must have been much less predisposed to noticing possible 
connections between the data and an out-of-India migration than the reverse. 

This predisposition is also in evidence in the debates over other types of evidence. 
Thus, in a recent internet discussion about the genetic data, someone claimed that 
one study (unlike many others) indicated an immigration of Caucasians into India 
in the second millennium bc. To be sure, archaeo-genetics is not sufficiently fine- 
tuned yet to make that kind of chronological assertion, but even if we accept this 
claim, it would only prove the AIT in the eyes of those who are already condi- 
tioned by the AIT perspective. After all, a northwestern influx into India in the 
second millennium, while not in conflict with the AIT, is not in conflict with the 
OIT either: the latter posits a northwestern emigration in perhaps the fifth 
millennium bc, and has no problem with occasional northwestern invasions in later 
centuries, such as those of the Shakas, Hunas, and Turks in the historic period. 

Likewise, linguistic evidence cited in favor of the AIT often turns out to be 
quite compatible with the OIT scenario as well (as we shall see), but is never 
studied in that light because so few people in the twentieth century even thought 
of that possibility. And today, even those who are aware of the OIT haven't 
thought it through sufficiently to notice how known data may verify it. 

7.2.4 The horse, argument from silence 

In a recent paper, Hans Hock gives the two arguments which had, all through the 
1990s, kept me from giving my unqualified support to the OIT. These are the 
dialectal distribution of the branches of the IE language family, to be discussed 
later, and the sparse presence of horses in Harappan culture. About the horse, he 
summarizes the problem very well: 

no archaeological evidence from Harappan India has been presented that 
would indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious signi- 
ficance of the horse (...) which can be observed in the traditions of the 
early IE peoples, including the Vedic Aryas. On balance, then, the "equine" 
evidence at this point is more compatible with migration into India than 
with outward migration. 

(Hock 1999: 13) 

B. B. Lai (1998: 111) mentions finds of true horse in Surkotada, Rupnagar, 
Kalibangan, Lothal, Mohenjo-Daro, and terracotta images of the horse from 



Mohenjo-Daro and Nausharo. Many bones of the related onager or half-ass have 
also been found, and one should not discount the possibility that in some contexts, 
the term ashva could refer to either species. Nevertheless, all this is still a bit 
meager to fulfill the expectation of a prominent place for the horse in an "Aryan" 
culture. I agree with the OIT school that such paucity of horse testimony may be 
explainable (cfr. the absence of camel and cow depictions, animals well-known to 
the Harappans, in contrast with the popularity of the bull motif, though cows must 
abound when bulls are around), but their case would be better served by more 
positive evidence. 

On the other hand, the evidence is not absolutely damaging to an Aryan- 
Harappa hypothesis. Both outcomes remain possible because other, reputedly 
Aryan sites are likewise poor in horses. This is the case with the Bactria- 
Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), surprisingly for those who interpret 
the BMAC as the culture of the Indo-Aryans poised to invade India 
(Sergent 1997: 161ff). It is also the case for Hastinapura, a city dated by 
archaeologists at c. eighth century bc, when that part of India was very definitely 
Aryan (Thapar 1996: 21). So, the argument from near-silence regarding horse 
bones need not prove absence of Aryans nor be fatal to the OIT, though it remains 
a weak point in the OIT argumentation. 

7.2.5 Evidence sweeping all before it 

When evidence from archaeology and Sanskrit text studies seems to contradict 
the AIT, we are usually reassured that "there is of course the linguistic evidence" 
for this invasion, or at least for the non-Indian origin of the IE family. Thus, 
F. E. Pargiter (1962: 302) had shown how the Puranas locate Aryan origins in the 
Ganga basin and found "the earliest connexion of the Vedas to be with the eastern 
region and not with the Panjab," but then he allowed the unnamed linguistic 
evidence to overrule his own findings (1962: 1): "We know from the evidence of 
language that the Aryans entered India very early." His solution is to relocate the 
point of entry of the Aryans from the western Khyber pass to the eastern 
Himalaya: Kathmandu or thereabouts. 

A common reaction among Indians against this state of affairs is to dismiss 
linguistics altogether, calling it a "pseudo-science." Thus, N. S. Rajaram describes 
nineteenth-century comparative and historical linguistics, which generated the 
AIT, as "a scholarly discipline that had none of the checks and balances of a real 
science" (1995: 144), in which "a conjecture is turned into a hypothesis to be later 
treated as a fact in support of a new theory" (1995: 217). 

Along the same lines, N. R. Waradpande (1989: 19-21) questions the very 
existence of an Indo-European language family and rejects the genetic kinship 
model, arguing very briefly that similarities between Greek and Sanskrit must be 
due to very early borrowing. He argues that "the linguists have not been able to 
establish that the similarities in the Aryan or Indo-European languages are genetic, 
i.e. due to their having a common ancestry." Conversely, he also (1993: 14-15) 



rejects the separation of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian into distinct language families, 
and alleges that "the view that the South-Indian languages have an origin different 
from that of the North-Indian languages is based on irresponsible, ignorant and 
motivated utterances of a missionary" (meaning the nineteenth-century pioneer of 
Dravidology, Bishop Robert Caldwell). 

This rejection of linguistics by critics of the AIT creates the impression that 
their own pet theory is not resistant to the test of linguistics. Indeed, nothing has 
damaged their credibility as much as this sweeping dismissal of a science praised 
in the following terms by archaeologist David W. Anthony: 

It is true that we can only work with relatively late IE daughter languages, 
that we cannot hope to capture the full variability of PIE, and that recon- 
structed semantic fields are more reliable than single terms. It is also true 
that both the reconstructed terms and their meanings are theories derived 
from systematic correspondences observed among the daughter IE lan- 
guages; no PIE term is known with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, the 
rules that guide phonetic (and to a lesser extent, semantic) reconstruction 
are more rigorous, have been more intensely tested, and rest upon a more 
secure theoretical foundation than most of the rules that guide interpreta- 
tion in my own field of prehistoric archaeology. Well-documented 
linguistic reconstructions of PIE are in many cases more reliable than 
well-documented archaeological interpretations of Copper Age material 


However, the fact that people fail to address the linguistic evidence, preferring 
simply to excommunicate it from the debate, does not by itself validate the pre- 
valent interpretation of this body of evidence. Rajaram's remark that scholars 
often treat mere hypotheses (esp. those proposed by famous colleagues) as facts, 
as solid data capable of overruling other hypotheses and even inconvenient new 
data, is definitely valid for much of the humanities. 

But then, while some linguists have sometimes fallen short of the scientific 
standard by thus relying on authority, it doesn't follow that linguistics is a pseudo- 
science. Nobody can observe the Proto-Indo-Europeans live to verify hypotheses, 
yet comparative IE linguistics does sometimes satisfy the requirement of having 
predictions implicit in the theory verified by empirical discoveries. Thus, some 
word forms reconstructed as the etyma of terms in the Romance languages failed 
to show up in the classical Latin vocabulary, but were finally discovered in the vul- 
gar-Latin graffiti of Pompeii. The most impressive example of this kind is probably 
the identification of laryngeals, whose existence had been predicted in abstracto 
decades earlier by Ferdinand de Saussure, in newly discovered texts in the Hittite 
language. We will get to see an important sequel to the laryngeal verification later. 

At the same time, some linguists are aware that the AIT is just a successful theory, 
not a proven fact. One of them told me that he had never bothered about a linguistic 



justification for the AIT framework, because there was, after all, "the well-known 
archaeological evidence"! But for the rest, "the linguistic evidence" is still the magic 
mantra to silence all doubts about the AIT. It is time that we take a look at it for 

7.3 The Indo-European landscape 

7.3.1 Intuitive deductions from geography 

There is, pace Misra 1992, absolutely no reason to doubt the established refutation 
of the Indian (and turn-of-the-nineteenth-century European) belief that Sanskrit 
is the mother of all IE languages, though Sanskrit remains in many respects closest 
to PIE, as a standard textbook of IE testifies: 

"The distribution [of the two stems as/s for 'to be'] in Sanskrit is the oldest 
one" (Beekes 1990: 37); "PIE had 8 cases, which Sanskrit still has" (Beekes 
1990: 122); "PIE had no definite article. That is also true for Sanskrit and Latin, 
and still for Russian. Other languages developed one" (Beekes 1990: 125); "[For 
the declensions] we ought to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-Iranian first, . . . But we 
will do with the Sanskrit because we know that it has preserved the essential 
information of the Proto-Indo-Iranian" (Beekes 1990: 148); "While the accentu- 
ation systems of the other languages indicate a total rupture, Sanskrit, and to a 
lesser extent Greek, seem to continue the original IE situation" (Beekes 1990: 187); 
"The root aorist ... is still frequent in Indo-Iranian, appears sporadically in Greek 
and Armenian, and has disappeared elsewhere" (Beekes 1990: 279). 

All the same, Sanskrit has moved away from PIE and the path can be mapped. 
Thus, you can explain Sktjagdma from PIE *gegoma as a palatalization of the 
initial velar (before e/i) followed by the conflation of a/e/o to a, but the reverse is 
not indicated and is close to impossible: palatalization is a one-way process, 
attested in numerous languages on all continents (including English, e.g. wicca > 
witch), while the opposite shift is practically unknown. The Kentum forms and the 
forms with differentiated vowels as attested in Greek represent the original situa- 
tion, while the Sanskrit forms represent an innovation. This means that Sanskrit 
is not PIE, that it has considerably evolved after separating from the ancestor- 
languages of the other branches of IE. 

However, accepting the conventional genealogical tree of the IE languages 
does not imply acceptance of their conventional geography. When Sanskrit was 
dethroned in the nineteenth century and the putative linguistic distance between 
PIE and Sanskrit progressively increased there was a parallel movement of the 
PIE homeland away from India. Apart from linguistic considerations (chiefly lin- 
guistic paleontology) and the political background (increased Eurocentrism at the 
height of the colonial period), this was certainly also due to a more or less con- 
scious tendency to equate linguistic distance from PIE with geographical distance 
from the Urheimat. That tendency has persisted here and there all through the 
twentieth century, for example, Witold Manczak (1992) deduces that the Urheimat 



must be in or near Poland from his estimate that lexically, Polish is closest to PIE 
in that it is the IE language with the fewest substratal borrowings. 

Obviously, that type of reasoning must be abandoned. It is perfectly possible 
for the most conservative language to be spoken by a group of emigrants rather 
than by those who stayed behind in the homeland. Indeed, according to the 
so-called Lateral Theory, it is precisely in outlying settlement areas that the most 
conservative forms will be found while in the metropolis the language evolves 
faster. That exactly is what the OIT posits regarding palatalization. 

7.3.2 Kentum/Satem 

The first innovation acknowledged as creating a distance between PIE and 
Sanskrit was the Kentum > Satem shift. It was assumed in my view correctly 
{pace Misra 1992), that palatalization is a one-way process transforming velars 
(k,g) into palatals (c,j) but never the reverse; so that the velar or "Kentum" forms 
had to be the original and the palatal or "Satem" forms the evolved variants. 

However, it would be erroneous to infer from this that the homeland was in the 
Kentum area. On the contrary, it is altogether more likely that it was in what 
became Satem territory, for example, as follows: India originally had the Kentum 
form, the dialects which emigrated first retained the Kentum form and took it to 
the geographical borderlands of the IE expanse (Europe, Anatolia, western China), 
while the last-emigrated dialects (Armenian, Iranian) plus the staybehind Indo- 
Aryan languages had meanwhile adopted the Satem form. 

Moreover, the discovery of a small and extinct Kentum language inside India 
(Proto-Bangani, with koto as its word for 'hundred'), surviving as a sizable sub- 
stratum in the Himalayan language Bangani, tends to support the hypothesis that 
the older Kentum form was originally present in India as well. This discovery was 
made by the German linguist Claus Peter Zoller (1987, 1988, 1989). The attempt 
by George van Driem and Suhnu R. Sharma (1996) to discredit Zoller has been 
overruled by the findings made on the spot by Anvita Abbi (1997) and her stu- 
dents. She has almost entirely confirmed Zoller's list of Kentum substratum 
words in Bangani. But as the trite phrase goes: this calls for more research. 

Zoller does not explain the presence of a Kentum language in India through an 
Indian Homeland Theory but as a left-over of a pre-Vedic Indo-European immigra- 
tion into India. He claims that the local people have a tradition of their immigration 
from Afghanistan. If they really lived in Afghanistan originally, their case (and their 
nuisance value for the AIT) isn't too different from that of the Tocharians, another 
Kentum people showing up in unexpected quarters. But if even the Vedic poets 
could not recall the invasion of their grandfathers into India (Vedic literature 
doesn't mention it anywhere, vide Elst 1999: 164-71), what value should we 
attach to a tradition of this mountain tribe about its own immigration many 
centuries ago? Could it not rather be that they have interiorized what the school- 
going ones among them picked up in standard textbooks of history? Their presence 
in Afghanistan or in Garhwal itself is at any rate highly compatible with the OIT. 



7.3.3 Indo-Hittite 

Another element which increased the distance between reconstructed PIE and 
Sanskrit dramatically was the discovery of Hittite. Though Hittite displayed a 
very large intake of lexical and other elements from non-IE languages, some of 
its features were deemed to be older than their Sanskrit counterparts, for example, 
the Hittite genus commune as opposed to Sanskrit's contrast between masculine and 
feminine genders, or the much-discussed laryngeal consonants. Outside Hittite, 
some phonetic side effects are the only trace of these supposed laryngeals, for 
example, Greek odont-, 'tooth', shows trace of an initial H-, which Latin lost to 
yield dent-. Greek aner, 'man', would come from *Hnr, whereas Sanskrit has 
nr/nara, only preserving the laryngeal in the form of vowel-lengthening in a prefix, 
as in su-nara from su + *Hnara. In meter, we find traces of an original laryngeal 
consonant marking a second syllable which was later contracted with the preceding 
syllable: "In Indo-Iranian such forms are often still disyllabic in the oldest poetry: 
bhds, 'light', = /bhaas/ < /bheH-os/" (Beekes 1990: 180). This fact has gone 
unnoticed in all pro-OIT writing so far. The laryngeal came in three varieties, and 
these later yielded the three vowels a/e/o, which in the Greek alphabet happen to 
be derived from the three more or less laryngeal consonants in Northwest-Semitic: 
aleph, he, and ayn. 

The laryngeal theory has been attacked by both OIT and mainstream circles. 
Misra (1992: 21) claims to have "refuted" it, Decsy (1991: 17) calls it "the infa- 
mous laryngeal theory." When scholars claim proof of the laryngeals in 
Caucasian loanwords from IE, Decsy (1991: 14, w. ref. to Wagner 1984) counters 
that it is the other way around: "Hittite lost its Indo-European character and 
acquired a large number of Caucasian areal features in Anatolia. These 
Caucasian-type features can not be regarded as ancient characteristics of the 
entire PIE." Likewise Jonsson (1978: 86), though accepting that the laryngeals 
may offer a "more elegant explanation of certain cases of hiatus in Vedic, of 
certain suffixal f's, m's," presents as "an acceptable alternative" the scenario that 
the laryngeal in IE-inherited Anatolian words "comes from the unknown non-IE 
language or languages that are responsible for the major part of the [Anatolian] 

But we need no dissident hypotheses here: even in the dominant theory, there 
is no reason why the Urheimat should be in the historical location of Hittite or at 
least outside India. As the first emigrant dialect, Hittite could have taken from 
India some linguistic features (genus commune, laryngeals) which were about to 
disappear in the dialects emigrating only later or staying behind. 

As for the shift from genus commune to a differentiation of the "animate" cate- 
gory in masculine and feminine, this has been used to illustrate a theory of fast- 
increasing complexity of post-PIE grammar, which Zimmer (1990b) interprets as 
a typical phenomenon of Creole languages. He sees early IE as the language of a 
colluvies gentium, a synthetic tribe of people from divergent ethnic backgrounds, 
which developed its makeshift link language into a complex language, with 



Hittite splitting off in an early stage of this evolution. This is an interesting 
hypothesis, but so far the evidence for it is lacking. Thus, there is no proof that 
the simpler verbal tense system of Germanic and Hittite came first while the more 
elaborate tense system of Aryan or Greek was a later evolution; more likely, the 
aorist which exists in the latter two but not in the former two is a PIE tense which 
some retained and some lost. The theories that PIE grammar was Hittite-like simple 
and that PIE was a Creole developed by a colluvies gentium are mutually sup- 
portive, but there is no outside proof for either. And if there were, it would still 
not preclude northwestern India as the habitat of this colluvies gentium. 

7.3.4 Dialect distribution 

One consideration which has always kept me from simply declaring the AIT 
wrong concerns the geographical distribution of the branches of the IE family. 
This argument has been developed in some detail by Hans Hock, who explains that 

the early Indo-European languages exhibit linguistic alignments which 
cannot be captured by a tree diagram, but which require a dialectological 
approach that maps out a set of intersecting "isoglosses" which define 
areas with shared features (...) While there may be disagreements on 
some of the details, Indo-Europeanists agree that these relationships 
reflect a stage at which the different Indo-European languages were still 
just dialects of the ancestral language and as such interacted with each 
other in the same way as the dialects of modern languages. 

(1999: 13) 

Isoglosses, linguistic changes which are common to several languages, indicate 
either that the change was imparted by one language to its sisters, or that the lan- 
guages have jointly inherited or adopted it from a common source. Within the 
IE family, we find isoglosses in languages which take or took geographically neigh- 
boring positions, for example, in a straight Greece-to-india belt, the Greek, 
Armenian, Iranian, and some Dardic and western Indo- Aryan languages, we see the 
shift s > h, for example, Latin septem corresponding to Greek hepta, Iranian hafta. 
In the same group, plus the remaining Indo-Aryan languages, we see the "preterital 
augment": Greek e-phere, Sanskrit a-bhamt, 'he/she/it carried'. Does this mean that 
the said languages formed a single branch for some time after the disintegration of 
PIE unity, before fragmenting into the presently distinct languages? 

Not necessarily, for this group is itself divided by separate developments which the 
member languages have in common with nonmember languages. Best known is the 
Kentum/Satem divide: Greek belongs to the Kentum group, while Armenian and 
Indo-Iranian share with Baltic and Slavic the Satem isogloss (as well as the related 
'ruki rule', changing s to sh after r, u, k, i). So, like between the dialects of any modern 
language, the IE languages share one isogloss with this neighbor, another isogloss 
with another neighbor, which in turn shares isoglosses with yet other neighbors. 



The key factor in Hock's argument seems to be neighbor, the remarkable 
phenomenon which should ultimately support the AIT is that isoglosses are shared 
by neighboring branches of IE. Thus, the Kentum languages form a continuous belt 
from Anatolia through southern to western and northern Europe (with serious 
exceptions, namely, Tocharian and proto-Bangani), and the Satem isogloss likewise 
covers a continuous territory, only later fragmented by the intrusion of Turkic, from 
central Europe to India. Hock provides (1999: 15) a map showing ten isoglosses in 
their distribution over the geographically placed IE language groups, and we do 
note the geographical contiguity of languages sharing an isogloss. 

Why is this important? 

What is interesting, and significant for present purposes, is the close 
correspondence between the dialectological arrangement in Figure 2 
(based on the evidence of shared innovations) and the actual geographical 
arrangement of the Indo-European languages in their earliest attested 
stages. (...) the relative positions of the dialects can be mapped straight- 
forwardly into the actual geographical arrangement if ( . . . ) the relative 
positions were generally maintained as the languages fanned out over 
larger territory. 

(Ibid.: 16) 

In other words: the geographical distribution of IE languages which actually 
exists happens to be the one which would, at the stage when the proto-languages 
were dialects of PIE, be best able to produce the actual distribution of isoglosses 
over the languages. 

So, the relative location of the ancestor-languages in the PIE homeland was 
about the same as their location at the dawn of history. This, Hock proposes, is 
best compatible with a non-Indian homeland. And indeed, if the homeland was 
in the Pontic region, the dialect communities could spread out radially, with the 
northwestern proto-Germanic tribe moving further northwest through what is 
now Poland, the western proto-Celtic tribe moving further west, the southwestern 
proto-Greek and proto-Albanian tribes moving further southwest through the 
Balkans, the southeastern proto-Indo-Iranians moving southeast, etc. (One reason 
given by the early Indo-Europeanists for assuming such radial expansion is that 
they found little inter-borrowing between IE language groups, indicating little 
mutual contact, this in spite of plenty of Iranian loans found in Slavic, some 
Celtic loans in Germanic, etc.) This way, while the distances grew bigger, the 
relative location of the daughters of PIE vis-a-vis one another remained the same. 

If this is a bit too neat to match the usual twists and turns of history, it is at least 
more likely than an Indocentric variant of Hock's scenario would be: 

To be able to account for these dialectological relationships, the "Out-of- 
India" approach would have to assume, first, that these relationships 
reflect a stage of dialectal diversity in a Proto-Indo-European ancestor 



language located within India, While this assumption is not in itself 
improbable, it has consequences which, to put it mildly, border on the 
improbable and certainly would violate basic principles of simplicity. 
What would have to be assumed is that the various Indo-European lan- 
guages moved out of India in such a manner that they maintained their 
relative position to each other during and after the migration. However, 
given the bottle-neck nature of the route(s) out of India, it would be 
immensely difficult to do so. 

(Ibid.: 16-17, emphasis Hock's) 

I believe there is a plausible and entirely logical alternative. The geographical 
distribution of PIE dialects in the PIE homeland is unrelated to the location of 
their daughter languages; the isoglosses are the result of a twofold scenario, part 
areal effect and part genealogical tree, as follows. In part, they reflect successive 
migrations from the heartland where new linguistic trends developed and affected 
only the dialects staying behind. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1995: 348-50) have 
built an impressive reconstruction of such successive migrations on an impressive 
survey of the linguistic material. To summarize: 

1 Initially, there was a single PIE language. 

2 The first division of PIE yielded two dialect groups, which will be called 
A and B. Originally they co-existed in the same area, and influenced each 
other, but geographical separation put an end to this interaction. 

3 In zone A, one dialect split off, probably by geographical separation (whether 
it was its own speakers or those of the other dialects who emigrated from the 
Urheimat, is not yet at issue), and went on to develop separately and become 

4 The remainder of the A group acquired the distinctive characteristics of the 
Tocharo-Italo-Celtic subgroup. 

5 While the A remainder differentiated into Italo-Celtic and Tokharic, the 
B group differentiated into a "northern" or Balto-Slavic-Germanic and 
a "southern" or Greek-Armenian- Aryan group; note that the Kentum/Satem 
divide only affects the B group, and does not come in the way of other and 
more important isoglosses distinguishing the northern group (with Kentum 
Germanic and predominantly Satem Baltic and Slavic) from the southern 
group (with Kentum Greek and Satem Armenian and Aryan). 

The second part is that the isoglosses not explainable by the former scenario 
are post-PIE areal effects, which is why they affect historically neighboring lan- 
guages, regardless of whether these had been neighbors when they were dialects 
of PIE. Archaeologists (mostly assuming a North-Caspian homeland) have said 
that the North-Central-European Corded Ware culture of c. 3 000 bc was a kind of 
secondary homeland from which the western branches of PIE spread, again more 
or less radially, to their respective historical locations; the OIT would allot that 



role of secondary western-IE homeland to the Kurgan culture. In such a secondary 
homeland, IE-speaking communities would, before their further dispersal, be 
close enough to allow for the transmission of lexical innovations or common sub- 
stratal borrowings (e.g. beech, cfr. Latinyagiw; or fish, cfr. Latin piscis, unattested 
in eastern IE languages). Communities in truly close interaction, at whichever 
stage of the development of IE, would also develop grammatical isoglosses. 

Hock (1999: 14) himself unwittingly gives at least one example which doesn't 
easily admit of a different explanation: "The same group of dialects [Germanic, 
Baltic, Slavic] also has merged the genitive and ablative cases into a single 'genitive' 
case. But within the group, Germanic and Old Prussian agree on generalizing the 
old genitive form (...) while Lithu-Latvian and Slavic favor the old ablative." 

But clearly, Old Prussian and Lithu-Latvian lived in close proximity and separate 
from Germanic and Slavic for centuries, as dialects of proto-Baltic, else they 
wouldn't have jointly developed into the Baltic group, distinct in many lexical and 
grammatical features from its neighbors. So, if the Baltic language bordering on the 
Germanic territory happens to share the Germanic form, while the languages 
bordering on Slavic happen to share the Slavic form, we are clearly faced with a 
recent areal effect and not a heirloom from PIE days. The conflation of cases has 
continued to take place in many IE languages in the historical period so the 
example under consideration may well date to long after the fragmentation of PIE. 

A second example mentioned by Hock may be the split within the Anatolian 
group, with Luwian retaining a distinction between velar and palatal but Hittite 
merging the two, just like its Greek neighbor. Positing an areal influence at the 
stage of PIE dialectal differentiation on top of an obviously existing areal influ- 
ence in the post-PIE period seems, in this context, like a "multiplication of entities 
beyond necessity": neighboring languages need not also have been neighbors at 
the dialectal PIE stage in order to transmit innovations, because their present or 
recent neighborliness already allows for such transmissions. 

As far as I can see from Hock's presentation, the twofold scenario outlined ear- 
lier is compatible with all the linguistic developments mentioned by him. For now, 
I must confess that after reading Hock's presentation, the linguistic problem 
which I have always considered the most damaging to an Indo-centric hypothesis, 
doesn't look all that threatening anymore. The isoglosses discussed by him do not 
necessitate the near-identity of the directional distribution pattern of the PIE 
dialects with that of their present-day daughter languages, which would indeed be 
hard to reconcile with an out-of-India hypothesis. But I cannot as yet exclude that 
Hock's line of argument could be sharpened, namely, by proving that certain 
isoglosses must date back to PIE times, making it tougher to reconcile the 
distribution of isoglosses with an Indian homeland hypothesis. 

7.3.5 Distribution of large and small territories 

Another aspect of geographical distribution is the allocation of larger and smaller 
stretches of territory to the different branches of the IE family. We find the Iranian 



(covering the whole of Central Asia before ad 1000) and Indo-Aryan branches 
each covering a territory as large as all the European branches (at least in the pre- 
colonial era) combined. We also find the Indo-Aryan branch by itself having, 
from antiquity till today, more speakers on the Eurasian continent (now nearing 
900 million) than all other branches combined. This state of affairs could help us 
to see the Indo-Aryan branch as the center and the other branches as wayward 
satellites; but so far, philologists have made exactly the opposite inference. 

It is said that this is the typical contrast between a homeland and its colony: 
a fragmented homeland where languages have small territories, and a large but 
linguistically more homogeneous colony. Thus, English, shares its little home 
island with some Celtic languages, but has much larger stretches of land in North 
America and Australia all to itself, and with less dialect variation than in Britain. 
By that criterion, it may be remarked at once, the Pontic region too would soon be 
dismissed as an IE homeland candidate, for it has been homogeneously Slavic for 
centuries, though it was more diverse in the Greco-Roman period. 

It is also argued that Indo-Aryan must be a late-comer to India, for otherwise 
it would have been divided by now in several subfamilies as distinct from each 
other as, say, Celtic from Slavic. 

To this last point, we must remark first of all that the linguistic unity of Indo- 
Aryan should not be exaggerated. The difference between Bengali and Sindhi 
may well be bigger than that between, say, any two of the Romance languages, 
especially if you consider their colloquial rather than their high-brow (sanskritized) 
register. Further, to the extent that Indo-Aryan has preserved its unity, this may be 
attributed to the following factors, which have played to a larger extent and for 
longer periods in India than in Europe: a geographical unity from Sindh to Bengal 
(a continuous riverine plain) facilitating interaction between the regions, unlike the 
much more fragmented geography of Europe; long-time inclusion in common polit- 
ical units (e.g. Maurya, Gupta, and Moghul empires); and continuous inclusion in 
a common cultural space with the common stabilizing influence of Sanskrit. 

As for the high fragmentation of IE in Europe when compared to its relative 
homogeneity in North India: from the viewpoint of an Indian homeland hypoth- 
esis, the most important factor explaining it is the way in which an emigration 
from India to Europe must have taken place. Tribes left India and mixed with the 
non-IE-speaking tribes of their respective corners of Central Asia and Europe. 
This happens to be the fastest way of making two dialects of a single language 
grow apart and develop distinctive new characteristics: make them mingle with 
different foreign languages. 

Thus, in the Romance family, we find little difference between Catalan, Occitan, 
and Italian, three languages which have organically grown without much outside 
influence except for a short period of Germanic influence which was common to 
them; by contrast, Spanish and Rumanian have grown far apart (lexically, phonet- 
ically, and grammatically), and this is largely due to the fact that the former has 
been influenced by Germanic and Arabic, while the latter was influenced by Greek 
and Slavic. Similarly, under the impact of languages they encountered (now mostly 



extinct and beyond the reach of our searchlight), and whose speakers they took 
over, the dialects of the IE emigrants from India differentiated much faster from 
each other than the dialects of Indo-Aryan. 

To be sure, expanding Indo-Aryan communities have likewise merged with 
communities speaking now-extinct non-IE languages, but they remained contin- 
ually in touch with neighboring speakers of "pure" Indo-Aryan, so that they 
maintained the original standards of their language better. It is widely assumed 
that the Bhil tribals of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh originally spoke a non-IE lan- 
guage, probably Nahali, yet: "No group of Bhils speak any but an Aryan tongue. 
(...) it is unlikely that traces of a common non- Aryan substratum will ever be 
uncovered in present-day Bhili dialects" (von Fiirer-Haimendorf 1956: x, quoted 
in Kuiper 1962: 50). One can still witness this process today: when tribals in 
Eastern and Central India switch over to Hindi, they retain at most only a handful 
of words from their Austro-Asiatic or Dravidian mothertongues, because the 
influence of standard Hindi is continually impressed upon them by the numerous 
native Hindi speakers surrounding them and by the media. 

By contrast, upon arrival on the North-European coasts, the speakers of proto- 
Germanic merged completely with the at least equally numerous natives. Having 
covered greater distances and in smaller numbers than the gradually expanding 
Indo-Aryan agriculturalists in India, they lost touch with the language standards 
of their fathers because they were not surrounded by a compact and numerically 
overwhelming environment of fellow IE-speakers. This allowed a far deeper 
impact of the native language upon their own, differentiating it decisively from 
IE languages not influenced by the same substratum. 

7.3.6 Go west 

A seemingly common-sense objection to an Indian homeland is that it implies an 
IE expansion almost entirely in one direction: east to west, with the homeland 
lying in the far corner of the ultimate IE settlement area rather than in the center. 
Isn't this odd? 

Well, no: it is the rule rather than the exception. Chinese spread from the 
Yellow River basin southward, first assimilating Central and then South China. 
Arabic spread from Arabia a little northward and mostly westward. The circum- 
stances in north and south, or in east and west, are usually very different, making 
the prospects of expansion very attractive on one side but much less promising on 
the other. Spanish and English could expand westward, in the Americas, because 
of their steep technological-military edge over the natives; this did not apply in 
the equation of forces to their east, in Europe. 

Assuming the OIT with Panjab-Haryana as the center, we can safely surmise 
that a similar number of migrants went southeast and northwest, yet their des- 
tinies were quite different. The first didn't have far to go: they colonized the rain 
forests of India's interior, where soil and climate allowed for the settlement of 
large populations on a relatively small surface. It was always easier to chop down 



another stretch of forest and expand locally than to leave the material security of 
interior India for a dangerous and probably pointless mountain trek into China or 
a sea voyage to Indonesia. By contrast, the second group going to Central Asia 
found itself challenged by more uncomfortable conditions: a variable climate, 
large stretches of relatively useless land, a crossroads location with hostile 
nomads or migrating populations passing through. They had to cross far larger 
distances in order to settle comfortably, mixing with many more people along the 
way, thus losing their physical Indianness and linguistically growing away from 
PIE fast and in different directions. 

As an economic and demographic outpost of India, Bactria was, along with 
Sogdia, a launching-pad for the most ambitious migration in premodern history; 
the first Amerindians and Austronesians covered even larger distances but settled 
empty lands, while the Indo-Europeans assimiliated large populations in a whole 
continent. This followed (or rather, set) a pattern: recall how the Mongols con- 
quered this region, then proceeded to conquer the western half of Asia and Eastern 
Europe; in the preceding centuries, the Turks; before that, the Iranians or {pars pro 
toto) Scythians; and first of all, the Indo-Europeans undertook similar expansions. 
Nichols 1997 (see later) adds Kartvelian to this list, as one case of a language 
spread westward through the Central-Asian "spread zone" but entirely losing its 
foothold there, only to survive in a South-Causasian backwater; and points to the 
parallel westward movement of the Finno-Ugrians from Siberia to Northeastern 
Europe. Until the eastward expansion of Russia, Central Asia was subject to an 
over-arching dynamic of east-to-west migration. This may have started as early as 
the end of the Ice Age, when a depopulated Europe became hospitable again, and 
lasted until the reversal of the demographic equation, when European population 
pressures forced an eastward expansion. 

7.4 Loans and substratum features 

7.4.1 How to decide on the foreign origin of a word? 

One widely accepted criterion for deciding whether a word attested in ancient 
Sanskrit is IE or not, is the presence of sound combinations which do not follow 
the standard pattern. It is argued that a word in a given language cannot take just 
any shape, for example, a true English word cannot start with shl-, shm-, sht-. 
Consequently, when a word does contain such irregular sounds, it must be of for- 
eign origin, that is, German or Yiddish, such as in loans like schnitzel, schmuck, 
schlemiel. Likewise, a Sanskrit word cannot contain certain sound combinations, 
which would mark it as a foreign loan. 

However, there are problems with this rule. First, and invasionists should wel- 
come this one, if a sound is too strange, chances are that people will "domesticate" 
it into something more manageable. This will result in a loan which differs in pro- 
nunciation from its original form, but which is no longer recognizable as a loan 
by the present criterion. Thus, in Sino-English, a boss or upper-class person is 



called a taiban, Chinese for "big boss"; there is nothing decisively un-English 
about this string of consonants and vowels. The one feature of this Chinese word 
which could have marked it as un-English, is its tones (to/ fourth tone, ban third 
tone), - but precisely that typically foreign feature has been eliminated from the 
English usage of the word. The same is true in Japanese, which has adopted hun- 
dreds of Chinese words after stripping them of tones and other distinctively 
Chinese phonetic characteristics. Likewise, Arabic has a number of sounds and 
phonemic distinctions unknown in European languages, which are systematically 
eliminated in the Arabic loans in these languages, for example, tariff from ta 'rifa 
with laryngeal 'ayn, or cheque from Sakk with emphatic Sad. 

Another point is: how do you decide what the standard shape of a word in 
a given language should be? Witzel (1999a: 364) calls bekandta "certainly a non-IA 
name" citing as reason the retroflex t and the initial b-. It may be conceded that 
the suffix -ta is common in seemingly non-IA ethnonyms (kikata etc.), but the 
phonetic exceptionalism, by contrast, cannot be accepted as a valid ground for 
excluding an IA etymology. The dental/retroflex distinction must initially have 
been merely allophonic, representing a single but phonetically unstable phoneme; 
and at any rate, numerous purely IE words have acquired the retroflex pronunci- 
ation, for example, Sad, 'six', or asta, 'eight'. While b- may be rare in Old IA, 
there is no good reason to exclude it altogether from the acceptable native sounds 
of the language. It is also attested in bala, 'strength', related to Greek bel-tion, 
'better', and Latin de-bil-is, 'off-strength', 'weak', a connection which Kuiper 
(1991 : 90) admits to be "attractive" though he would prefer to "accept the absence 
of /b/ in the PIE consonant system," it being otherwise only attested in the 
Celtic-Germanic-Slavic (hence probably Euro-substratal) root *kob, 'to fall'. 

What threatens to happen here, is that the minority gets elbowed out by the 
majority, such that the majoritarian forms are imposed as the normative and only 
permissible forms. Compare with the argument by Alexander Lehrmann (1997: 
151) about accepting or excluding the rare sequence "e + consonant" as a possi- 
bly legitimate root in Hittite: "There is absolutely no reason why a lexical root of 
Proto-Indo-European (or Proto-Indo-Hittite) cannot have the shape *eC-, except 
the wilful imposition by the researching scholar of the inferred structure of 
a majority of lexical roots on a minority of them" (emphasis mine). The same 
openness to exceptions to the statistical rule is verifiable in other languages, for 
example, Chinese family names are, as a rule, monosyllabic (the Mao in Mao 
Zedong), yet two-syllable names have also existed, though now fallen in disuse 
(the Sima in Sima Qian). As a rule, Semitic verbal roots have a "skeleton" of three 
consonants, yet a few with two or four consonants also exist. Admittedly, both 
examples also illustrate a tendency of the exception to disappear in favor of (or to 
conform itself to) the majoritarian form; but their very existence still provides an 
analogy for the existence of atypical minoritarian forms in IE. 

Another point is that there may be a covert petitio principii at work here. Many 
assertions on what can or cannot be done in Indo-Aryan are based on the assump- 
tion that Vedic Sanskrit is more or less the mother of the whole IA group, it being 



the language of the entry point whence the Aryan tribes populated a large part of 
India. In an OIT scenario (e.g. Talageri 1993: 145) of ancient Indian history, 
Sanskrit need not be the mother of IA at all, there being IA dialects developing 
alongside Vedic Sanskrit. Just as Vedic religion was but one among several Indo- 
Aryan religious traditions, the traces of which are found in the Puranas and 
Tantras, Vedic Sanskrit is but one among a number of OIA dialects. The eastward 
expansion of Vedic culture attested in the Atharva Veda, Shatapatha Brdhmana 
etc. may have vedicized regions which were already IA-speaking though 
religiously non- Vedic. 

Thus, the sh/s > s shift in eastern Hindi and Bengali, for example, subhdsa > 
subhds, ghosa > ghos, may be due to substratum influence (cfr. the case of 
Kosala in Section 7.4.2), but then again, what is more ordinary than this inter- 
sibilant shift in dialectal variation? Remember Semitic saldm/shalom, or the 
Biblical test of pronouncing sibboleth/shibboleth. This could be a substratum 
influence, but it could also simply be a spontaneous variation in a non- Vedic 
dialect of IA. More generally, one should not jump to conclusions of foreign 
origins without a positive indication. Mere oddities may come into being without 
adstratal or substratal influence (cfr. French phonetic oddities like nasalization or 
uvular [rj)\ they are not proof enough that IA was an intruding language replacing 
a native one. 

7.4.2 River names in Panjab 

If a word looks Sanskritic, it may still be of foreign origin, but thoroughly 
assimilated. With historical languages, the assimilation into Sanskrit sound pat- 
terns is well-attested, for example, Greek dekanos becoming drekkdna, Altaic 
turuk becoming turuska, Arabic sultan becoming suratrdna, etc. Sometimes this 
phonetic adaptation gives rise to folk-etymological reinterpretation, often with 
hypercorrect modification of the word, for example, the rdna, 'king', in suratrdna. 
Such adaptation can also take place even without etymological interpretation, just 
for reasons of "sounding right." Thus, it is often said (e.g. Witzel 1999a: 358) that 
yavana, vaguely "West-Asian," is a hypersanskritic back-formation on yona, 
Ionia, that is, the name of the Asian part of Greece. This principle underlies the 
Sanskrit look of many foreign loans in Sanskrit. 

Witzel uses this phenomenon to explain the Sanskrit looks of no less than 
thirty-five North-Indian river names: "Even a brief look at this list indicates that 
in northern India, by and large, only Sanskritic river names seem to survive" 
(1999a: 370). He quotes Pinnow 1953 as observing that over 90 percent don't just 
look IA but "are etymologically clear and generally have a meaning" in IA. He 
attributes this unexpectedly large etymological transparency to "the ever-increasing 
process of changing older names by popular etymology." This hypothesis of a 
very thorough assimilation of foreign names with pseudo-etymology is a possi- 
bility but quite unsubstantiated, a complicated explanation satisfying AIT pre- 
sumptions but not Occam's razor. It has no counterpart in any other region of 



IE settlement, for example, in Belgium most river names are Celtic or pre-Celtic 
and make no sense at all in Dutch or French; yet in their present forms no attempt 
is in evidence of semantically romanizing or germanicizing them. In the USA, 
there are plainly native river names like Potomac, and plainly European ones like 
Hudson, but no anglicized native names. So, most likely, the Sanskrit-looking 
river names are simply Sanskrit. 

This may be contrasted with the situation farther east in the Ganga plain, where 
we do find many Sanskrit- sounding names of rivers and regions which however 
do not have a transparent etymology, for example, kaushiki or koshala, apparently 
linked to Tibeto-Birmese kosi, 'water', and the name of the river separating 
Koshala from Videha. In that case, we also see the ongoing sanskritization: 
kaushiki evolved from kosiki (attested in Pali), and koshala from kosala, which 
Witzel (1999a: 382) considers as necessarily foreign loans because the sequence 
-os- is "not allowed in Sanskrit." But while the phonetic assimilation can be 
caught in the act, we can see no semantic domestication through folk etymology 
at work. The name koshala doesn't mean anything in Sanskrit, and that is a deci- 
sive difference with the western hydronyms gomati, 'the cow-rich one', or asikni, 
'the dark one'. While the occurrence of some folk-etymological adaptation 
among the Panjabi river names can in principle be conceded, it is highly unlikely 
to be the explanation of all thirty-five names. Until proof to the contrary, the 
evidence of the Northwest-Indian hydronyms goes in favor of the absence of 
a non-IE substratum, hence of the OIT 

7.4.3 Exit Dravidian Harappa 

The European branches of IE are all full of substratum elements, mostly from 
extinct Old European languages. For Germanic, this includes some 30 percent of 
the acknowledged "Germanic" vocabulary, including such core lexical items as 
sheep and drink; for Greek, it amounts to some 40 percent of the vocabulary. In 
both cases, extinct branches of the IE family may have played a role along with 
non-IE languages (vide Jones-Bley and Huld 1996: 109-80 for the Germanic 
case). The branch least affected by foreign elements is Slavic, but this need not 
be taken as proof of a South-Russian homeland: in an Indian Urheimat scenario, 
the way for Slavic would have been cleared by other IE forerunners, and though these 
languages would absorb many Old European elements as substratum features, 
they also eliminated the Old European languages as such and prevented them 
from further influencing Slavic. 

Even if we accept as non-IE all the elements in Sanskrit described as such by 
various scholars, the non-IE contribution is still smaller than in some of the 
European branches of IE, which bear the undeniable marks of "Aryan" invasions 
followed by linguistic assimilation of large native populations. Among the highest 
estimates is the 5-9 percent of loans in Vedic Sanskrit proposed by Kuiper 1991: 
90-3, in his list of 383 "foreign words in the Rigvedic language." A number of 
these words are certainly misplaced: some have no counterpart in Dravidian or 



Munda, or when they do, there is often no reason to assume that the direction of 
borrowing was into rather than out of Indo-Aryan. 

To take up one example, the name agastya is a normal Sanskritic derivative of 
the tree name agasti, "Agasti grandiflora" (Kuiper 1991: 7 sees the derivation as 
a case of totemism). This word is proposed to be a loanword, related to Tamil 
akatti, acci, as if the invaders borrowed the name from Dravidian natives. That 
non-Indian branches of IE do not have this word, says nothing about its possible 
IE origins: they didn't need a word for a tree that only exists in India, so they may 
have lost it after emigrating. It is perfectly possible that the Tamil word was 
derived from Sanskrit agasti, and by looking harder we just might discern an 
IE etymon for it, for example, Pirart (1998: 542) links agastya with Iranian gasta, 
"foul-smelling, sin." 

But let us accept that some 300 words in Kuiper's list are indeed of non-IE origin. 
Even then, the old tendency to impute Dravidian origins to IA words of unclear 
etymology must be abandoned because the underlying assumption of a 
Dravidian-speaking Harappan civilization has failed to get substantiated. 
Likewise, the relative convergence of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian (as well as 
Munda and to an extent Burushaski) in phonetic, lexical, and grammatical fea- 
tures, forming a pan-Indian linguistic zone (vide e.g. Abbi 1994), is no longer 
explained as the substratal effect of an India-dominating Dravidian culture. 

That the Dravidians are not native to their present habitat, had already been 
accepted: "Arguments in favour of the South Indian peninsula being the original 
home of the Dravidian language family, very popular with Tamil scholars at one 
time, cannot resist the weight of the evidence, both archaeological and linguistic" 
(Basham 1979: 2). Now, even Harappa is being lifted out of their claimed her- 
itage. Bernard Sergent (1997: 129) and Michael Witzel (1999a: 385) are among 
the latest experts to bid goodbye to the popular assumption that Harappa was 
Dravidian-speaking. Indeed, the most important shift in scholarly opinion in 
recent years is the realization that, when all is said and done, there is really not 
a shred of evidence for the identification of the Harappans as Dravidian, even though 
several elaborate attempts at decipherment of the Indus "script" (Fairservis 1992; 
Parpola 1994) have been based on it. 

Some of the arguments classically used against Vedic Harappa equally stand in 
the way of Dravidian Harappa, for example, like Vedic culture, the oldest glim- 
psable Dravidian culture was not urban: according to McAlpin (1979: 181-2), 
the Dravidians "were almost certainly transhumants practising both herding and 
agriculture, with herding the more unbroken tradition." Of course, in both cases, 
a chronological shift placing them in the pre-urban pre-Harappan period could 
solve this problem. More importantly, the Dravidian contribution to the Indo- 
Aryan languages is not such as one would expect if Indo-Aryan newcomers had 
incorporated a prestigious Dravidian-speaking city culture. Even linguists eager 
to discover Dravidian words in IA are surprised to find how small their harvest 
is: "Dravidian influence is less than has been expected by specialists" (Wojtilla 
1986: 34). 



Judging from the substratum of place-names, Dravidians once were located 
along the northwestern coast (Sindh, Gujarat, Maharashtra) in the southern 
reaches of the Harappan civilization. Parpola points out the presence of a Dravidian 
substratum, starting with the place-names: 

palli, 'village' (when valli and modern -oli, -ol in Gujarat), corresponding 
to South-Dravidian pallr; and pdta(ka) or pdti (when vdta, vdti, etc., 
modern -vddd, vdd etc. in Gujarat) as well as pattana (Gujarati pattern), 
all originally 'pastoral village' from the Dravidian root patu, 'to lie down 
to sleep'. In addition to place-names, other linguistic evidence suggests 
that Dravidian was formerly spoken in Maharashtra, Gujarat and, less evi- 
dently, Sind, all of which belonged to the Harappan realm. It includes 
Dravidian structural features in the local Indo-Aryan languages Marathi, 
Gujarati, and Sindhi, such as the distinction between two forms of the per- 
sonal pronoun of the first person plural, indicating whether the speaker 
includes the addressee(s) in the concept "we" or not. Dravidian loanwords 
are conspicuously numerous in the lower-class dialects of Marathi. 

(1994: 170) 

Add to this the cultural influence, for example, the Dravidian system of kinship 
(Witzel 1999a: 385). 

So, that is how a Dravidian past perpetuates itself along the presently IA-speaking 
coastline, but it is conspicuous by its absence in Panjabi and Hindi. The latter has 
much fewer Dravidian elements than the link language Sanskrit, for example, the 
Dravidian loan mina, 'fish', caught on in Sanskrit but never in Hindi. There is no rea- 
son to assume a Dravidian presence in North India at any time. The main part of the 
Harappan civilization was definitely not Dravidian if we may judge by the substratum 
evidence there, for example, the lack of Dravidian hydronyms. There are also no 
indications that South-Indian Dravidian culture is a continuation of Harappan culture. 

The Dravidians may have entered Sindh through the Bolan Pass from 
Afghanistan (Samuel et al. 1990: 45), possibly as late as the third millennium bc 
(McAlpin 1979), though I am not aware of any firm proof against their indige- 
nous origins. Vedic culture was established in the Panjab for quite some time 
before encountering Dravidian, considering that the oldest layers of Vedic literature 
do not contain loans from Dravidian: according to Witzel (1999b: section 1.1), 
"RV level 1 has no Dravidian loans at all." Dravidian loans appear only gradually 
in the next stages (i.e. when Indo-Aryan culture penetrates Dravidian territory) 
and are typically terms used in commercial exchanges, indicating adstratum rather 
than substratum influence. With that, Dravidian seems now to have been eliminated 
from the shortlist of pretenders to the status of Harappan high language. 

7.4.4 Pre-IE substratum in Indo-Aryan: para-Munda 

Unlike Dravidian, other languages seem to have exerted an influence on Sanskrit 
since the earliest Vedic times: chiefly a language exhibiting Austro-Asiatic features, 



hence provisionally called para-Munda, not the mother but at least an aunt of the 
Munda languages still spoken in Chhotanagpur. Where IA-Dravidian likenesses 
in words without apparent IE etymology were hitherto often explained as 
Dravidian substratum in IA, the favorite explanation now is that Dravidian bor- 
rowed from IA what IA itself had borrowed from para-Munda, for example, 
mayura, 'peacock' was derived from Munda *mara and in its turn yielded Tamil 
mayil. A second influence is attributed to an unknown language, nonetheless 
discernible through consistent features, and provisionally called Language X. 

Indian non-invasionists strongly dislike the alleged fondness of Western lin- 
guists for "ghost languages," for example, Talageri (1993: 160) dismisses "purely 
hypothetical extinct languages" thus: "We cannot proceed with these scholars into 
the twilight zone of non-existent languages." But the simple fact remains that 
numerous languages have died out, and that the ghost of some of them can be 
seen at work in anomalous elements in existing languages. Thus, the first 
Sumerologists noticed an un-Sumerian presence of remnants of an older language 
typified by reduplicated final syllables, hence baptized "banana language." 
Today, much more is known about a pre-Sumerian Ubaidic culture, which has 
become considerably less ghostly. 

In the para-Munda thesis, the hypothetical para-Munda language seems to be 
the main influence, reaching far northwest to and even beyond the entry point 
of the Vedic Aryans in India, and definitely predominant in the whole Ganga basin. 
The word gangd itself has long been given an Austro-Asiatic etymology, especially 
linking it with southern Chinese kang/kiang/jiang, supposedly also an Austro- 
Asiatic loan. The latter etymology has recently been abandoned, with the pertinent 
proto-Austro-Asiatic root being reconstructed as *krang and the Chinese word 
having a separate Sino-Tibetan origin (Zhang 1998). Witzel (1999a: 388) now pro- 
poses to explain Ganga as "a folk etymology for Munda *gand," meaning 'river', 
a general meaning it still has in some IA languages. The folk etymology would be 
a reduplication of the root *gam/ga, 'moving-moving', 'swiftly flowing', which 
only applies meaningfully to the river's upper course, nearest to the Harappan pop- 
ulation centers. But there is no decisive reason why the folk etymology could not 
be the real one, nor why some other IE etymology could not apply. For the sake of 
argument, we might propose a phonetically impeccable kinship with Middle Dutch 
konk-elen, 'twist and turn', related to English kink, 'torsion'. 

In some cases, a Munda etymology is supported by archaeological evidence. 
Rice cultivation was developed in Southeast Asia (including South China), land 
of origin of the Austro-Asiatic people, who brought it to the Indus region by the 
Late Harappan age at the latest. Therefore, it is not far-fetched to derive Sanskrit 
vrihi from Austro-Asiatic *vari, which exists in practically the same form in 
Austronesian languages like Malagasy and Dayak, and reappears even in 
Japanese (uru-chi), again pointing to Southeast-Asia as the origin and propagator 
in all directions of both the cultivation of rice and its name *vari. 

All this goes to confirm that at least linguistically, the Munda tribals are not 
"aboriginals" (or with a pseudo-native modern term, ddivdsis), but carriers and 



importers of Southeast-Asian culture. Witzel himself acknowledges that "Munda 
speakers immigrated," as this should explain why in Colin Masica's list of 
agricultural loans in Hindi (1979), which in conformity with the invasionist 
paradigm is very generous in allotting non-IE origins to Indo-Aryan words, 
Austro- Asiatic etymologies account for only 5.7 percent. In borrowing so few 
Munda words, the Vedic Aryans clearly did not behave like immigrants into 
Munda-speaking territory. 

This paucity of Munda influence in the agricultural vocabulary, soil-related 
par excellence, should also caution us against reading Munda etymologies into 
the equally soil-bound hydronyms, which are overwhelmingly Indo-Aryan from 
the kubhd to the yamund. Witzel (1999a: 374) diagnoses the usual Sanskritic 
interpretations as artificial "popular etymology," but in most cases does not 
produce convincing Munda alternatives. The one plausible Munda etymology 
is for shutudri (prefix plus *tu-, 'to drift', plus *da, 'water', Witzel 1999b: 
section 1 .4), if only because the Vedic Aryans themselves showed their unfamil- 
iarity with it by devising folk etymologies like shata-drukd, 'hundred streams'; 
even there, the step from -da to -dri, though possible, does not impress itself as 

Numerous words have wrongly or at least prematurely been classified as 
foreign loans. Talageri (1993: 169-70) gives the examples of animal-names like 
khadgin ('breaker', rhinoceros), mdtamga ('roaming at will', elephant), gaja 
('trumpeter', elephant), which Suniti Kumar Chatterji had cited as loans from 
Dravidian or Munda but which easily admit of an IE etymology. Likewise, there 
may well be an IA explanation for terms commonly given non-IE etyma, for 
example, exotic-sounding ulukhala, 'mortar (for soma)\ may well be analyzed, 
following Paul Thieme, into IA uru, 'broad', plus khala, 'threshing-floor', or even 
khara, 'rectangular piece of earth for sacrifices' (with Greek cognate, eschara). 
The word mayura, "peacock", is often given a Dravidian or (by Witzel 1999a: 350) 
Munda etymon, but Monier Monier- Williams (1899: 789) already derived it from 
an onomatopoeic IA root *md, 'bleat', and the related words in non-IA languages 
may very well be derived from IA forms (but in this case, the suffix -ur-, 
unknown in Indo-Aryan, pleads in favor of a foreign origin). 

As a rule, one should not allot Dravidian or Munda origins to an IA word 
unless the etymon can actually be pointed out (at least indirectly) in the purported 
source language. It is therefore with great reservation that we should consider the 
list of para-Munda words "in the RV, even if we cannot yet find etymologies" 
(Witzel 1999b: section 1.2). On the other hand, many hypothetical etyma which 
do not exist in Munda in full, and which should at first sight be rejected, may be 
analyzed as composites with components which do exist in Munda. 

The main pointer to a Munda connection seems to be a list of prefixes, now no 
longer productive in the Munda languages, and not recognized or used as prefixes 
by Vedic Sanskrit speakers. Thus, the initial syllable of the ethnonym ki-kata 
seems to be one in a series of non-IA and probably para-Munda prefixes ka/ke/ki 
etc. (Witzel 1999a: 365), some of which look like the declension forms of the 



definite article in Khasi, an Austro-Asiatic language in the Northeast. On this 
basis, very common words become suspected loans from "para-Munda," for 
example, ku-mdra, 'young man', a term not explainable in IE, but plausibly 
related to a Munda word mar, 'man' (Witzel 1991b: section 1.2). 

Between Sanskrit karpdsa, 'cotton', and Munda ka-pas (cfr. Sumerian 
kapazum), it may now be decided that the latter was first while the former, with 
its typical cluster -rp-, is but a hypersanskritized loan. This also fits in with the 
archaeological indications of textile-manufacturing processes pioneered by the 
Southeast-Asians, and with an already-established Austro-Asiatic etymon *pas 
(without the prefix) for Chinese bu, 'cotton cloth'. Incidentally, this does not 
affect the argument by Sethna that the appearance of this word in late-Vedic, 
regardless of its provenance, should be synchronous with the appearance of actual 
cotton cloth in the Panjab region, namely, in the mature Harappan phase (implying 
that early Vedic predated the mature Harappan phase); indeed, Sethna (1982: 5) 
himself accepts the Austro-Asiatic etymology. 

An interesting idea suggested by Witzel concerns an alleged alternation k/zero, for 
example, in the Greek rendering of the place-name and ethnonym Kamboja (eastern 
Afghanistan) as Ambautai, apparently based on a native pronunciation without k-. 
Citing Kuiper and others, Witzel (1999a: 362) asserts that "an interchange k : zero 
'points in the direction of Munda' " though this "would be rather surprising at this 
extreme western location." Indeed, it would mean that not just Indo- Aryan but also 
other branches of Indo-Iranian have been influenced by Munda, for kam-boja seems 
to be an Iranian word, the latter part being the de-aspirated Iranian equivalent of Skt 
bhoja, 'king' (Pirart 1998: 542). At any rate, if the Mundas could penetrate India as 
far as the Indus, they could reach Kamboja too. 

But the interesting point here is that the "interchange k : zero" is attested in IE 
vocabulary far to the west of India and Afghanistan, for example, English ape 
corresponding to Greek kepos, Sanskrit kapi, 'monkey', or Latin aper, 'boar', 
corresponding to Greek kapros. Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1995: 113, 435) have 
tried to explain this through a Semitic connection, with the phonological close- 
ness, somewhere in the throat, of qof and 'ayn. But if the origin of this alternation 
must be sought in an Afghano-Munda connection, what does that say about the 
geographical origin of English, Latin, and Greek? 

Given the location of the different language groups in India, it is entirely 
reasonable that Munda influence should appear in the easternmost branch of IE, 
namely, Indo- Aryan. If both IE and Munda were native to India, we might expect 
Munda influence in the whole IE family (though India is a big place with room 
for nonneighboring languages), but since Munda is an immigrant language, we 
should not be surprised to find it influencing only the stay-behind IA branch of 
IE. This merely indicates a relative chronology: first Indo-Aryan separated from 
the other branches of IE when these left India, and then it came in contact with 
para-Munda. So, if we accept the presence of para-Munda loans in Vedic Sanskrit, 
we still need not accept that this is a native substratum influence in a superimposed 
invaders' language. 



7.4.5 Pre-IE substratum in Indo-Aryan: language X 

The mysterious language X has possibly not left this earth without a trace, for it is 
tentatively claimed to be connected with the nearly vanished but known Kusunda 
language of Nepal (Witzel 1999a: 346). Masica (1979) had found no known ety- 
mologies for 3 1 percent of agricultural and flora terms in Hindi, and Witzel cred- 
its these to language X (1999a: 339). I would caution, with Talageri (1993: 165ff.), 
against prematurely deciding on the non-IE origin of a word not having parallels 
in other IE languages, especially in the case of terms for indigenous flora and 
fauna. Though Sanskrit kukkura or Hindi kuttd, both 'dog', have no IE cognates 
outside India, we cannot expect the Aryans to have been ignorant of this animal 
and to have learned about it from the Indian natives upon invading. Onomatopoeic 
or otherwise slang formations just come into being and sometimes replace the 
original standard terms, without implying foreign origin or a substratum effect. 

The OIT has no objection to the impression that Vedic Sanskrit has absorbed 
some foreign words, for example, from immigrants into their metropolis, just like 
the Romance languages borrowed many Germanic words from the Gothic invaders. 
All that the OIT requires is merely that this absorption should have taken place after 
the emigration of the other branches of IE from India. Also, it is accepted that 
some substratal effects may have taken place during the Aryan "colonization" of the 
non- Aryan lower Ganga plain, in which the western IE languages took no part. 

One discernible trait of this ghost language X is claimed to be the "typical 
gemination of certain consonants" (Witzel 1999b: section 1.1), for example, in 
the name of the malla tribe/caste. Often these geminates are visible upon first 
borrowing but are later masked by hypersanskritic dissimilation, for example, 
pippala becoming pishpala, or guggulu becoming gulgulu (Witzel 1999b: 
section 2.4). However, the geminated -kk- in kukkura or the -tt- in kuttd, though 
atypical of the IE word pattern, can perfectly come into being as onomatopoeic 
formations within a purely IE milieu: in imitating the sound of a dog, even 
IE-speakers need not have assumed that barking sounds follow the IE pattern. 

The assumption of a language X in North India will be welcomed by many as 
the solution to the vexing question of the origin of retroflexion in the Indian lan- 
guages. Weak in Burushaski and Munda, strong yet defective (never in initial 
position) in Dravidian, strong in Indo-Aryan but unattested among its non-Indian 
sister-languages, retroflexion in its origins is a puzzling phenomenon. So, lan- 
guage X as the putative language of the influential Harappan metropolis, or as the 
native substratum of the later metropolitan region, namely, Eastern Uttar Pradesh 
and Bihar, might neatly fit an invasionist scenario for the genesis of retroflexion 
in Indo-Aryan as well as its spread to all corners of India. 

Still, there is no positive reason yet for locating the origin of retroflexion in this 
elusive language X. An entirely internal origination of retroflexion within early 
Indo-Aryan, which then imparted it to its neighbors, has always had its defenders 
even among linguists working within the invasionist paradigm (e.g. Hamp 1996). 
And consider the following possibility. 



The Vedic hymns may well be somewhat older than the language in which they 
have come down to us. We need not exclude a phonetical evolution between the 
time of composition and the time when the Veda was given its definitive shape, 
traditionally by vydsa, 'compiler'. Strictly speaking, it is not even impossible that 
a hymn composed in a language phonetically close to PIE, pre-proto-Indo- 
Iranian, subsequently underwent the Kentum/Satem shift and the vowel shift from 
IE /a/e/o/ to Sanskrit /a/, somewhat like the continuity of living Latin across cen- 
turies of phonetic change: Caesar evolving from [kaisar] to [cezar] or [sezar], 
agnus (lamb) from [agnus] to [anyus], cyclus from [kiiklus] to [ciklus] or [siklus], 
descendere from [deskendere] satemized to [deshendere], the vowels ae/oe/e 
coinciding as [e], etc. In the Middle Ages, Virgil's verses were still recited, but 
with a different pronunciation, just as in China, children memorized the 
Confucian Classics in the pronunciation of their own day, without knowing what 
the ancient masters' own pronunciation must have sounded like. Similarly, the 
Vedic hymns may well be older than the language form in which they have been 
preserved till today. 

A very modest application of this line of thought is the hypothesis that the 
differentiation between dental and retroflex or cerebral consonants was not yet 
present in the original Vedic, and only developed by the time Sanskrit reached its 
classical form. Deshpande (1979) argues that the cerebral sounds crept in when the 
center of Brahminical learning had shifted from Sapta-Sindhu to the Ganga basin, 
where the Indo-Aryan dialects had developed the dental-cerebral distinction. In that 
case, the Veda recension which we have today (the mdndukeya and shdkalya recen- 
sions, which Deshpande dates to 700 bc), was established in Videha-Magadha 
(Bihar), where native speakers imposed their pronunciation on the Veda. 

Deshpande also mentions a Magadhan king Shishunaga (fifth century bc?) who 
prohibited the use of the retroflex sounds t/th/d/dh/s/ks in his harem. But this 
seems to indicate that retroflexion was an intrusive new trend in Magadha, not at all 
a native tendency which was so strong and ingrained that it could impose itself on 
the liturgical language. Something may be said for Kuiper's (1991 : 1 1-14) rebuttal 
to Deshpande's thesis, namely, that mdndiikeya's insistence on retroflex pronunci- 
ation was a case of upholding ancient standards against a new and degenerative 
trend implying that retroflexion was well-established by the time the Vedas were 
composed and was being neglected in the new, eastern metropolis. That puts us 
back at base one: Munda (probably the main influence in Bihar) is clearly not the 
source of retroflexion, and that elusive language X didn't have much lexical impact 
on Vedic yet, making phonological influence even less likely. So if retroflexion was 
already present in Vedic, and otherwise too, the search for its origin continues. 

7.4. 6 The peculiar case of "Sindhu " 

Among IA-looking river names, a case can be made for surprising IE etymologies 
of names usually explained as loans. In particular, sindhu might be an 
"Indo-Iranian coinage with the meaning 'border river, ocean' and fits Paul 



Thieme's etymology from the IE root *sidh, 'to divide' " (1999a: 387). Now, if 
the Vedic Aryans only entered India in the second millennium bc, the name 
Sindhu cannot be older than that. 

According to Oleg Trubachov (1999), elaborating on a thesis by Kretschmer 
(1944), Indo-Aryan was spoken in Ukraine as late as the Hellenistic period 
by two tribes knows as the Maiotes and the Sindoi, the latter also known by its 
Scythian/Iranian-derived name Indoi and explicitly described by Hesychius as 
"an Indian people." They reportedly used a word sinu, from sindhu, for 'river', 
a general meaning which it also has in some Vedic verses. Trubachov lists a number 
of personal and place-names recorded by Greek authors (e.g. Kouphes for the 
Kuban river, apparently a re-use of kubhd, the Kabul river, Greek Kophes), and 
concludes that the Maiotes and Sindoi spoke an Indo-Aryan dialect, though often 
with -/- instead of -r-, as in king Saulios, cfr. surya (just the opposite from 
Mitannic, where palita, 'grey', and pingala, 'reddish', appear as parita and 
pinkara) and with -pt- simplified to -tt- (so that, just like in Mitannic, sapta 
appears as satta, a feature described by Misra 1992 as "Middle LA"). 

Working within the AIT framework, Kretschmer saw these Sindoi as a left-over 
of the Indo-Aryans in their original homeland and even as a splendid proof of the 
Pontic homeland theory (Trubachov is less committed to any particular homeland 
hypothesis). In that case, again, the name sindhu (and likewise kubhd) would be 
an Indo-Aryan word brought into India by the Vedic-Aryan invaders. 

However, Witzel himself (1999b: section 1.9) notes that the Sumerians (who 
recorded a handful of words from "Meluhha'VSindh, which incidentally seem nei- 
ther IA nor Dravidian) in the third millennium already knew the name sindhu as 
referring to the lower basin of the Indus river, then the most accessible part of the 
Harappan civilization, when they imported "sinda" wood. If this is not a coinci- 
dental look-alike, then either sindhu is a word of non-IE origin already used by 
the non-IE Harappans, in which case the Pontic Sindoi were migrants from India 
(demonstrating how earlier the Kurganites might have migrated from India?); or 
sindhu was an IE word and proves that the Harappan civilization down to its 
coastline was already IA-speaking. 

7.5 Linguistic paleontology 

7.5.7 Hot and cold climate 

One of the main reasons for nineteenth-century philologists to exclude India as 
a candidate for Urheimat status was the findings of a fledgling new method called 
linguistic paleontology. The idea was that from the reconstructed vocabulary, one 
could deduce which flora, fauna, and artifacts were familiar to the speakers of the 
proto-language, hence also their geographical area of habitation. The presence in 
the common vocabulary of words denoting northern animals like the bear, wolf, elk, 
otter, and beaver seemed to indicate a northern Urheimat; likewise, the absence of 
terms for the lion or elephant seemed to exclude tropical countries like India. 



It should be realized that virtually all IE-speaking areas are familiar with the 
cold climate and its concomitant flora and fauna. Even in hot countries, the 
mountainous areas provide islands of cold climate, for example, the foothills of 
the Himalaya have pine trees rather than palm trees, apples rather than mangoes. 
Indians are therefore quite familiar with a range of flora and fauna usually asso- 
ciated with the north, including bears (Sanskrit rksha, cfr. Greek arktos), otters 
{udra, Hindi udludbildw), and wolves (vrka). Elks and beavers do not live in 
India, yet the words exist, albeit with a different but related meaning: rsha means 
a male antelope, babhru ('brownie') a mongoose. The shift of meaning may have 
taken place in either direction: it is perfectly possible that emigrants from India 
transferred their term for 'mongoose' to the first beavers which they encountered 
in Russia. 

7.5.2 Early Vedic flora terms 

When the Hittites settled in Anatolia, they found an advanced civilization and 
adopted numerous lexical and grammatical elements from it. By contrast 

It was different with the Indo-Aryan tribes arriving in India: with the 
Harappan civilization probably already in decline, they could very well 
preserve the full range of their traditions including their remarkably 
archaic language. The influence of non-Indo-European languages is just 
beginning to be visible (e.g. the retroflex series). The Aryan ideology of 
"hospitality" and "truth" is very vivid, as in Ancient Iran. 

(Zimmer 1990a: 151) 

The same conservation of IE heritage seems to be in evidence in their vocabu- 
lary. As we saw, Austro-Asiatic is plausibly argued to have contributed many 
words to IA, yet only little in the semantic range where substratum influence is 
usually the largest, namely, indigenous flora. In that field, the early Vedic vocab- 
ulary has been screened for linguistic origins by Jean Haudry (2000: 148), who 
argues that the foreign origin of IA is indicated not just by non-IE etymologies 
but also by artificial IA coinages based on IE vocabulary. Admittedly, a few are 
simply IE: 

bhurja, birch; 

parkati,ficus infectoria, cfr. Latin quevcus, 'oak'; 

ddru, 'wood', cfr. Gk. doru, Eng. tree; 

pitu-ddru, a type of pine, cfr. Lat. pituita, a type of pine. 

A few (but here, Haudry is apparently not trying for exhaustiveness) are loans: 

• shimshapa, dalbergia sisa ("from a West-Asian language"); 

• pilu, an unspecified tree ("probable loan from Dravidian"). 



But all the others are Indian coinages on an IE base: 

nyagroha, ficus indica, 'downward-growing'; 

ashvattha,ficus religiosa, 'horse food' (at least "probably", according to Haudry); 

vikankata, flacourtia sapida, 'stinging in all directions'; 

shami, prosopis spicigera, 'hornless'; 

ashvaghna, nerium odoratum, 'horse-slayer'; 

tdrshtdghna, an unidentified tree, 'evil-killer'; 

spandana, an unidentified tree, 'trembler'; 

dhava, grislea tomentosa or anogeissus latifolia, 'trembler'; 

parna, butea frondosa, 'feather', hence 'leaf (metonymic); 

svadhiti, an unidentified tree, 'hatchet' (metaphoric). 

It is of course remarkable that they didn't borrow more terms from the natives, 
as if they had invaded an uninhabited country and had to invent names from 
scratch. But the main question here is: does "artificial coinage" indicate that the 
referents of these words were new to the Indo-Aryans? It would seem that, on the 
contrary, artificial coinage pervades the whole IE vocabulary. 

It is true that new phenomena are often indicated with such descriptive terms, 
for example, French chemin de fer ('iron road') for 'railway'; or in classical 
Sanskrit, loha, 'the red one', to designate the then new metal 'iron'. Yet, far from 
being confined to new inventions, "artificial" coinage is the typical PIE proce- 
dure for creating names for natural species. Thus, PIE *bheros, 'brown', has 
yielded the animal names Skt bhdlu, Eng. bear, and with reduplication, 
*bhebhrus, Eng. beaver (perhaps also Gk. phrunos, 'toad'), all meaning simply 
'the brown one'. Similarly, *kasnos, Eng. hare, Skt shasha, means 'the grey one'; 
*udros, Eng. otter (when also Gk. hydra, water-snake) means 'the water-animal' 
(a general meaning which it has at least partly preserved in Skt udra); lynx is from 
*leukh, 'to be bright'; frog from *phreu-, 'to jump'. The deer, Lat. cervus, Dutch 
hert, is 'the horned one', cfr. Lat. cornu, 'horn'. The bear, Slavic medv-ed, Skt 
madhv-ad, is also the 'honey-eater'. Some of the said animals known by descrip- 
tive terms are inhabitants of the northern zone; following the AIT argument that 
such coinages indicate immigration, we would have to conclude that the Urheimat 
definitely did not know otters, beavers, bears, hares, and lynxes. 

The Indo-Europeans certainly knew the species homo, and had no need to be told 
about its existence by natives of some invaded country. Well, Latin homo/hom-in-is 
is an artificial derivative of hum-u-s, 'soil', hence 'earth-dweller' (cfr. Hebrew adam, 
'man', and adamah, 'earth'), as opposed to the heaven-dwellers or gods, which gives 
us a glimpse of the philosophy of the PIE-speaking people. The Iranian- Armenian 
term for this species, mard, is another philosophical circumlocution, 'mortal'. The 
Sanskrit term manusa, and possibly even purusa, is a patronym: 'descendent of 
Manu' and 'descendent of Puru' (cfr. Urdu ddmi, 'man', i.e. 'son of Adam'), with 
manu itself apparently derived from *man-, 'mind'. Not one of these is a truly 
simple term, all are artificially coined from more elementary semantic matter. 



In so basic a vocabulary as the numerals, we encounter artificial coinages: PIE 
*oktou is a dual form meaning 'twice four' (cfr. Avestan ashti, 'four fingers', and 
perhaps Kartvelian *otxo, 'four'); *kmtom, 'hundred', is a derivative of *dkm, 
'ten', through *dkmtom. And there are connections between the numerals and the 
real world: five is related to finger; nine is related to new; *dkm, 'ten' is related 
to in-dek-s, 'pointing finger', Greek deik-numi, 'to point out', etc. 

Likewise for family terminology. The daughter, according to a popular etymology, 
is the 'milkmaid', cfr. Skt dugdha, 'milk' (though the semantic connection could 
also be through 'suckling' > 'child' > 'girl', cfr. the trendy use of 'babe'). The 
Roman children, liberi, were the 'free ones', as opposed to the serf section of the 
extended household (cfr. conversely Persian: d-jdta, 'born unto', 'own progeny' 
> dzdd, 'free'). Even the word *pa-ter, 'father', usually interpreted as 'protec-tor' 
is a more artificial construction than, for example, Gothic atta (best known through 
its diminutive Attila), a primitive term present in very divergent languages (as in 
the pater patriae epithets Ata-tiirk and Keny-atta). 

Such descriptive formations are common in IE, but Sanskrit is often the only 
IE language in which the descriptive origin of words is still visible, which may 
indicate its high age. In all other IE languages, 'wolf is exclusively the name of 
this animal; in Sanskrit, vrka is treated as part of a continuum with the verb vrk, 
"to tear" (likewise for prddku, later). Very primitive even seemingly pre-PIE, 
would be the nonuse of a suffix, as in the 'tear-er', with the root itself is both 
verbal root and nominal stem. 

Not the descriptive term, but rather the etymologically isolated term, which 
only appears in the lexicon to designate a species, is an indicator of the newness 
and strangeness of the species to the speakers of the language concerned, because 
it would probably be borrowed by newcomers from the natives of the habitat of 
the species. Thus, tomato has no descriptive value and no etymological relatives 
in the IE languages, because it was borrowed wholesale as the name of this veg- 
etable from the Amerindian natives of the tomato-growing regions. That Sanskrit 
matsya, 'fish', is derivable from an IE root mad, 'wet', while Greek ichthys and 
Italo-Germanic piscis/fish have no PIE etymology, indicates a substratum influ- 
ence on the European branches of IE, not on the Indian one. Proposals of a link 
between ichthys and Greek chthon, PIE *dhghom, 'earth' (hence 'nether world', 
including the submarine sphere?) are doubtful, and even if valid, they would only 
confirm our finding that description, that is, of the fish as a 'netherworlder', is 
a common formula for coining words in IE. 

In Haudry's own list of simple inherited IE words, bhurja is an artificial 
coinage, meaning 'the bright one', the birch being exceptional in color, namely, 
white. The same may hold for parkati/quercus, which seems related to the word 
for 'lightning', cfr. the personified lightning-god, Baltic Perkunas, Skt Parjanya. 
It is certainly true of a general Vedic word for 'tree', which Haudry also mentions: 
vanaspati, 'lord of the jungle'. Such metaphoric circumlocution is what the 
Nordic poets called a kenning, and it is omnipresent not only in the earliest known 
IE poetry traditions, but even in the formation of IE words themselves. 



7.5.3 The linguistic horse 

The word *ekw-o-s, 'horse', is a later formation in PIE. The oldest vocabulary had 
athematic stems (e.g. Latin lex from legs), the thematic stems (e.g. Latin cerv-u-s), 
belong to a later generation of PIE words. Simple roots are older than roots which 
have been lengthened with an extra (mostly gender-specific) vowel -a or -o; the 
development of the latter category, with its own declension, had also been 
completed before the disintegration of PIE. To take two momentous inventions, 
the IE words for 'fire' (*egnis, *pur, *dter) belong to the older category, while 
the words for 'wheel' (*rot-o-s, *kwekwl-o-s) belong to the younger type, which 
indicates that the wheel was newly invented or newly adopted from neighboring 
peoples by the Proto-Indo-Europeans, whereas the use of fire was already an 
ancient heritage. 

Coming to livestock: *gwou-s, 'cow', and *su-s, 'pig' (with the younger 
diminutive *su-in-o, 'swine') belong to the older category, while *ekw-o-s, 
'horse', belongs to the younger category. Some scholars deduce from this that the 
pig and the cow were domesticated earlier than the horse, which happens to tally 
with the archaeological data. But it might just as well be interpreted as an indica- 
tion that the horse was not only not domesticated by the earliest Proto-Indo- 
Europeans, but was simply not known to them; after all, the inhabitants of 
the areas where horses were available for domestication, must have known the 
horse since much earlier, as a wild animal on par with the wolf and the deer. 
We shouldn't give too much weight to this, but if it matters at all that the term for 
'horse' is a younger formation, it would indicate that the horse was not native 
to the Urheimat, and that the Proto-Indo-Europeans only got acquainted with it, 
as with the wheel, shortly before their dispersal. In that case, India was a better 
candidate for Urheimat status than the horse-rich steppes. 

This cannot be taken as more than a small indication that the horse was not part 
of the scenery in the PIE homeland. There are many newer- type formations for age- 
old items, for example, the species lup-u-s, 'wolf, and cerv-u-s, 'deer', were most 
certainly known to the first PIE-speakers, wherever their homeland. But in the pres- 
ent case, another argument for the late origin of ekw-o-s has been added (by Lehmann 
1997: 247), namely, its somewhat irregular development in the different branches of 
IE, for example, the appearance from nowhere of the aspiration in Greek hippos. 

The only convincing attempt to give *ekwos roots in the basic PIE vocabulary, 
is through the Greek word okus, from *oku/eku, 'fast', interpreting the name of 
the horse as 'the fast one'. Another cognate word, mentioned by Lehmann (1997: 
247), could be Balto-Slavic *ashu, 'sharp'. If this is so, those who see artificial 
coinage of Indian tree names in Sanskrit as proof of the speakers' unfamiliarity 
with the trees in question, should also deduce that this artificial coinage indicates 
the foreignness of the horse to the original PIE-speakers in their Urheimat. 
Conversely, if the irregularities in the various evolutes of *ekwos are taken to indi- 
cate that it 'was borrowed, possibly even independently in some of the dialects' 
(Lehmann 1997: 247), this would again confirm that the horse was a newcomer 



in the expanding PIE horizon. Could this be because the PIE horizon started 
expanding from horseless India? 

If this is not really a compelling argument, at least the converse is even more 
true: any clinching linguistic evidence for a horse-friendly Urheimat is missing. 
We should now consider the possibility that the Proto-Indo-Europeans only famil- 
iarized themselves with the horse toward the time of their dispersion. A possible 
scenario might be during some political or economic crisis, adventurers from 
overpopulated India, speaking PIE dialects, settled in Central Asia where they 
acquainted themselves with the horse. More than the local natives, they were 
experienced at domesticating animals (even the elephant, judging from RV 9.47.3 
which mentions an elephant decorated for a pageant), and they domesticated 
the horse. While relaying some specimens back to the homeland, they used the 
new skill to speed up their expansion westward, where their dialects became the 
European branches of the IE family. The horse became the prized import for 
the Indian elite, which at once explains both its rarity in the bone record and its 
exaltation in the Vedic literary record. 

The terms for cart and the parts of a cart (wheel, axle) famously belong to the 
common PIE vocabulary, giving linguistic-paleontological support to the image of 
the PIE-speaking pioneers leaving their homeland in ox-drawn carts and trekking to 
their Far West. This cart was also known in Harappa. But unlike the wheel and its 
parts, the spoked wheel seems to be a later invention, at least according to the same 
criterion: felloe and spoke are not represented in the common PIE lexicon. The fast 
horse-drawn chariot with spoked wheels was a post-PIE innovation; its oldest avail- 
able specimen was reportedly found in Sintashta in the eastern Urals and dated 
around the turn of the second millennium bc, synchronous with the declining years 
of Harappa. It remains possible that the 99 percent of non-excavated Harappan sites 
will also yield some specimens, but so far no Harappan chariots have been found; 
nor has any identifiably Vedic chariot, for that matter. 

Yet, the Rgveda does mention chariots, though not everywhere and all the 
time. If the internal chronology of the Rgveda developed by Shrikant Talageri 
(2000) is approximately right (and much of it is uncontroversial, e.g. putting 
books 8 to 1 later than the "family books", 2 to 7), we can discern an Early Vedic 
period in which the spoked wheel was unknown, or at least unmentioned, and a 
later period when it was very much present in the Vedic region and culture. In that 
case, the Vedic Aryans had lived in India well before the chariot was imported 
there (if not locally invented, so far unattested but not unlikely given Harappa 's 
edge in technology). This implies that they either invaded India in an earlier 
period, without the aid of the horse-drawn spoked-wheel chariot, the tank or 
Panzer of antiquity; or that they were native to India. 

7.5.4 Positive evidence from linguistic paleontology 

In assessing the linguistic-paleontological evidence, it has been shown earlier that 
the fauna terms provide no proof for a northern Urheimat. Thomas Gamkrelidze 



and Vyaceslav Ivanov (1995: 420-31 and 442^1), in their bid to prove their 
Anatolian Urheimat theory, have gone a step further and tried to find positive 
proof, namely, terms for hot-climate fauna in the common IE vocabulary. 

Thus, they relate Sanskrit prddku with Greek pardos and Hittite parsana, all 
meaning 'leopard', an IE term lost in some northern regions devoid of leopards 
(note that the meaning in Sanskrit is still transparent, namely, 'the spotted one', and 
that this description is also applied to the snake, while a derivative of the same root, 
prshati, means 'spotted deer'). The word lion is found as a native word, in regular 
phonetic correspondence, in Greek, Italic, Germanic, and Hittite, and with a vaguer 
meaning 'beast' in Slavic and Tocharian. It could be a Central Asian acquisition of 
the IE tribes on their way from India; alternatively, it is not unreasonable to give it 
deeper roots in IE by linking it with a verb *reu-, Skt rav-, 'howl, roar', considering 
that alternation r/l is common in Sanskrit (e.g. the double form plavaga/pravaga, 
'monkey', or the noun plava, 'frog' related to the verb pravate, 'jump'). 

A word for 'monkey' is common to Greek (kepos) and Sanskrit (kapi), and 
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov argue for its connection with the Germanic and Celtic word 
'ape'. For 'elephant', they even found two distinct IE words (1995: 443): Sanskrit 
ibha, 'male elephant', corresponding to Latin ebur, 'ivory, elephant'; and Greek 
elephant- corresponding to Gothic ulbandus, Tocharian *alpi, 'camel'. In the second 
case, the 'camel' meaning may be the original one, if we assume a migration through 
camel-rich Central Asia to Greece, where trade contacts with Egypt and India made 
the elephant known once more; the word may be a derivative from a word meaning 
'deer', Greek elaphos. In the case of ibha/ebur, however (which Gamkrelidze and 
Ivanov connect with Hebrew shen-habbim, 'tusk-of-elephant', "ivory"), we have a 
straightforward linguistic-paleontological argument for an Urheimat with elephants. 
Though the alternative of a later borrowing through trade should not be discounted. 

To be sure, linguistic paleontology is no longer in fashion: "The long dispute 
about the reliability of this 'linguistic paleontology' is not yet finished, but 
approaching its inevitable end - with a negative result, of course" (Zimmer 
1990a: 142). Yet, to the extent that it does retain some validity, it no longer militates 
against the OIT, and even provides some modest support to it. 

7.6 Exchanges with other language families 

7.6.7 Souvenirs of language contacts 

One of the best keys to the geographical itinerary of a language is the exchange 
of lexical and other elements with other languages. Two types of language contact 
should be distinguished. The first type of language contact is the exchange of 
vocabulary and other linguistic traits, whether by long-distance trade contact, 
by contiguity, or by substratum influence, between languages which are not 
necessarily otherwise related. 

Perhaps more than by proven contact, a language can also be "rooted" in a region 
by a second type of "contact," namely, genetic kinship with a local language. To be 



sure, just like languages with which contacts were established, cognate languages 
may have moved, and their place of origin overwhelmed by newcomers. Still, in 
the present discussion it would count as a weighty argument if it could be shown 
that IE was genetically related to either a West-European or an East- Asian language. 
This would "pull" the likely Homeland in a westerly or easterly direction. In 
Europe, the kinship would have to be with Basque, but this remains a language 
isolate, so this solid proof for a westerly homeland is missing. How about the 
Asian connection? 

7.6.2 Sumerian and Semitic 

If we discount coincidence, a few look-alikes between Sumerian and PIE may be 
assumed to be due to contact, though in the first millennium of writing, "Indo- 
European is not documented in the earliest Mesopotamian records" (Anthony 
1991: 197, contra the Anatolian homeland theory of Renfrew 1987 and others). 
Also, these look-alikes are so few and phonetically so elementary that sheer coin- 
cidence might really be sufficient explanation. To borrow some examples from 
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1995), Sumerian agar, 'irrigated territory', may be 
related to PIE *agr-o (Lat. ager, Skt ajrah), and may have been borrowed in either 
direction. Sumerian tur, 'yard, enclosure for cattle', could be related with PIE 
*dhwer, Grk thyra, English door. Sumerian ngud/gud/gu, 'bull, cow' (cfr. Skt go, 
English cow), should be seen together with the Egyptian word ng3w, 'a type of 
bull'; the latter type of semantic relation from 'bull' to 'type of bull', narrowing 
down from the general to the particular, is often indicative of borrowing (cfr. from 
French chauffeur, 'a driver' to English chauffeur, 'the driver in your employ', or later, 
from PIE *hster- 'star', to Akkadian Ishtar, 'planet Venus'): Egyptian borrowed 
from Sumerian, which in turn borrowed from IE. Sumerian kapazum, 'cotton', 
already mentioned, may be from Austro-Asiatic *kapas as well as from Skt karpdsa. 
Kinship of Sumerian with IE is practically excluded (though there are vague 
indications of Sumerian-Munda kinship, fitting into the theory of the migration of 
both Sumerian and Austro-Asiatic from 'Sundaland', the Sunda shelf to the south 
and east of Vietnam, when it was submerged by the post-Glacial rising tide in 
c.6000 bc, cfr. Oppenheimer 1998), because there is just no above-coincidence 
similarity in phonetic or grammatical features. If some words are related, it must 
be due to borrowing in the context of trade relations. The main geographical can- 
didates for PIE regions trading with Sumer would be Anatolia and the Indus basin. 
Then again, being the main language of civilization in c.3000 bc, some Sumerian 
terms may have been used in long-distance trade with the Pontic area, the more 
conventional Urheimat candidate. Note however that the trade links between 
Sumer and the Harappan civilization ('Meluhha' in Mesopotamian texts) are well- 
attested, along with the presence of Indo- Aryans in Mesopotamia, for example, the 
names Arisena and Somasena in a tablet from Akkad dated to c.2200 bc (Sharma 
1995: 36 w. ref. to Harmatta 1992: 374). It doesn't follow that these Indo-Aryans 
in Mesopotamia originated in the Indus Valley, but it is not excluded either. 



Far more important is the linguistic relation between IE and Semitic (and, if 
genetic, hence also with the Chadic, Kushitic, and Hamitic branches of the Afro- 
Asiatic family, assumed to be the result of a pre-fourth-millennium migration of 
early agriculturists from West Asia into North Africa). Semitic has frequently 
been suspected of kinship with IE, even by scholars skeptical of "Nostratic" 
mega-connections. Most remarkable are the common fundamental grammatical 
traits: Semitic, like IE, has grammatically functional vowel changes, grammatical 
gender, three numbers (singular, plural, and a vestigial dual), declension, and con- 
jugational categories including participles and medial and passive modes. Many 
of these grammatical elements are shared only by Afro-Asiatic and IE, setting 
them off as a pair against all other language families. The two also share most of 
their range of phonemes, even more so if we assume PIE laryngeals to match 
Semitic aleph, he and 'ayn, and if we take into account that the fricatives seem- 
ingly so typical of Semitic are often evolutes of stops (e.g. modern Hebrew 
Avraham from Abraham, thus transliterated in the Septuagint), just like Persian or 
Germanic developed fricatives from PIE stops (e.g. hafta c.q. seven from *septm). 
Moreover, if we count PIE laryngeals as consonants, two-consonant IE roots 
come closer to the typical three-consonant shape of Semitic roots. 

One way to imagine how Semitic and IE went their separate ways has been 
offered by Bernard Sergent (1995: 398 and 432), who is strongly convinced of the 
two families' common origin. He combines the linguistic evidence with archaeo- 
logical and anthropological indications that the (supposedly PIE-speaking) 
Kurgan people in the North-Caspian area of c.4000 bc came from the southeast, 
a finding which might otherwise be cited in support of their ultimate Indian ori- 
gin. Thus, the Kurgan people's typical grain was millet, not the rye and wheat cul- 
tivated by the Old Europeans, and in c.5000 bc, millet had been cultivated in what 
is now Turkmenistan (it apparently originates in China), particularly in the 
mesolithic culture of Jebel. From there on, the archaeological traces become 
really tenuous, but Sergent claims to discern a link with the Zarzian culture of 
Kurdistan, 10000-8500 bc. He suggests that the Kurgan people had come along 
the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, not from the southeast (India) but the 
southwest, near Mesopotamia, where PIE may have had a common homeland 
with Semitic. 

However, those who interpret the archaeological data concerning the genesis 
of agriculture in the Indus site of Mehrgarh as being the effect of a diffusion 
from West Asia, may well interpret an eventual kinship of IE with Semitic as 
illustrating their own point: along with its material culture, Mehrgarh 's language 
may have been an offshoot of a metropolitan model, namely, a Proto-Semitic- 
speaking culture in West Asia. This would mean that the Indus area was indeed 
the homeland of the original PIE, but that in the preceding millennium, PIE had 
been created by the interaction of Proto-Semitic-speaking colonists from West 
Asia with locals. 

A less heady theory holds that there is no genetic kinship between IE and 
Semitic, the lexical connection being too meagre, and that there has only been 



some contact. Oft-quoted is the seeming Semitic origin of the numerals 6 and 7 
(Hebrew shisha, shiva, Arabic sitta, sab'a), conceivably borrowed at the time 
when counting was extended beyond the fingers of a single hand for the first 
time. Contact with Akkadian and even Proto-Semitic is attested by a good hand- 
ful of words, especially some terms for utensils and animals. Examples of bor- 
rowing in the opposite direction, from PIE/IE to Semitic, include Semitic *qarn, 
'horn' (e.g. Hebrew qeren), from PIE khr-n (cfr. Latin cornu, Sanskrit shrnga), 
derived within PIE from a root kher-, 'top, head' (Greek kar); and the well-known 
Semitic names of the planet Venus, Ishtar/'Ashtoret/'Ashtarte, from PIE *hster-, 
'star' (with Semitic feminine suffix -t), derived within PIE from the root *as, 'to 
burn, glow'. 

Some terms are in common only with the Western IE languages, for example, 
Semitic gedi corresponding to IE *ghed-, still recognizable in Latin haedus, 
English goat; IE *taur-o-s, 'bull', Semitic *taur-, from Proto-Semitic cu-r-; 
and IE woi-no-/wei-no, 'wine', West-Semitic uain-, Hebrew yayin. In this 
case we should count with a common origin in a third language, possibly 
Hattice or the language of the Old-European culture or its last stronghold, Minoic 
Crete. The transformation of demonstratives into the definite article in most 
Western IE languages has also been related, vaguely and implausibly, to 
Semitic influence. However, all this testimony is a bit too slender for concluding 
that the Western Indo-Europeans had come from the East and encountered the 
Semites or at least Semitic influence on their way to the West. Meanwhile, the 
word *peleku, 'axe', apparently related to Semitic (Arabic) falaqa, 'to split', 
is only attested in the Eastern Greek- Armenian- Aryan subgroup of PIE, possibly 
a later loan to that group in its homeland after the northwestern branches had 
left it. 

The very fact of IE-Semitic contact, like in the case of Sumerian, dimly favors 
an IE homeland with known trade relations with the Middle East, especially 
Anatolia or India, over a Russian or European one. But given the very early civi- 
lizational lead of Semitic-speaking centers (e.g. Ebla, Syria, 3200 bc), the effect 
of truly long-distance trade to northern backwaters cannot be excluded. So, the 
evidence of Semitic or Sumerian contacts is inconclusive, though it does not 
preclude an Indian homeland for PIE. 

More promising though far more complicated is the analysis by Nichols (1997) 
of the transmission of loans in and around Mesopotamia, also taking the three 
Caucasian families into account. Of the latter, the two northern ones show little 
lexical exchange with IE, which pleads against a Pontic homeland. On the basis 
of these "loanword trajectories" through different languages, especially of 
Mesopotamian cultural terms including those discussed earlier, Nichols 
(1997: 127) finds that in the fourth millennium BC, "Abkhaz-Circassian and Nakh- 
Daghestanian are in approximately their modern locations, and Kartvelian and IE 
are to the east." More precisely, Kartvelian is "likely to have emanated from 
somewhere to the south-east of the Caspian" while the "locus of IE was farther 
east and farther north" (1997: 128) - which can only be Bactria. 



Whether Bactria was the homeland in its own right or merely a launching-pad 
for Indians trekking west remains to be seen. But if Nichols' findings, as yet 
based on a limited corpus of data, could be corroborated further, it would generally 
help the OIT. 

7.6.3 Uralic 

A case of contact on a rather large scale which is taken to provide crucial 
information on the Urheimat question, is that between early IE and Uralic. It was a 
one-way traffic, imparting some Tocharian, dozens of Iranian and also a few seem- 
ingly Indo-Aryan terms to either Proto-Uralic or Proto-Finno-Ugric (i.e. main- 
stream Uralic after Samoyedic split off). Among the loans from Indo-Iranian or 
Indo-Aryan, we note sapta, 'seven, week', asura, 'lord', sasar, 'sister', shata, 'hun- 
dred' (Redei 1988). The Iranian influence is uncontroversial and easily compatible 
with any IE Urheimat scenario because for long centuries Iranian covered the area 
from Xinjiang to Eastern Europe, occupying the whole southern frontier of the 
Uralic speech area. But how do the seemingly Indo-Aryan words fit in? 

At first sight, their presence would seem to confirm the European Urheimat 
theory: on their way from Europe, the Indo-Iranian tribes encountered the Uralic 
people in the Ural region and imparted some vocabulary to them. This would even 
remain possible if, as leading scholars of Uralic suggest, the Uralic languages 
themselves came from farther east, from the Irtysh river and Balkhash lake area. 

The question of the Uralic homeland obviously has consequences. Karoly 
Redei (1988: 641) reports on the work of a fellow Hungarian scholar, Peter Hajdu 
(1950s and 1960s): "According to Hajdu, the Uralic Urheimat may have been in 
western Siberia. The defect of this theory is that it gives no explanation for the 
chronological and geographical conditions of its contacts between Uralians 
(Finno-Ugrians) and Indo-Europeans (Proto- Aryans)." Not at all: Hajdu's theory 
explains nicely how these contacts may have taken place in Central Asia rather 
than in Eastern Europe, and with Indo-Iranian rather than with the Western 
branches of IE. V V Napolskikh (1993) has supported the Irtysh/Balkhash home- 
land theory of Uralic with different types of evidence from that given by Hajdu, 
and now that the genetic aspect of population movements is being revaluated 
(Cavalli-Sforza 1996), the Asiatic physical features of isolated Uralic populations 
like the Samoyeds could also be included as pointers to an easterly homeland. 

In that case, three explanations are equally sustainable. One rather facile sce- 
nario is the effect of long-distance trade between an Indian metropolis and the 
northerly backwaters, somewhat like the entry of Arabic and Persian words in dis- 
tant European languages during the Middle Ages (e.g. tariff, cheque, bazar, 
douane, chess). More interesting is the possibility that these words were imparted 
to Uralic by IA-speaking emigrants from India. 

One occasion for mass emigration, which the OIT sees as a carrier of IA 
languages, was the catastrophe which led to the abandonment of the Harappan 
cities in c.2000 bc. This must have triggered migrations in all directions: to 



Maharashtra, to India's interior and east, to West Asia by Mitannic true 
Indo-Aryans as well as by the "sanskritized" non-IA Kassites. (I disagree with 
R. S. Sharma 1995: 36 that Mesopotamian inscriptions from the sixteenth cen- 
tury bc "show that the Kassites spoke the Indo-European language," though they 
do mention the Vedic gods "Suryash" and "Marutash"; for samples of the non-IE 
Kassite lexicon, vide Van Soldt 1998.) And so, one of these groups went to the Pontic 
region. Along the way, some members ended up in an Uralic-speaking environment, 
imparting a bit of IA terminology but getting assimilated over time, just like their 
Mitannic cousins. The Uralic term orya, 'slave', from drya, may indicate that their 
position was not as dignified as that of the Mitannic horse trainers. Incidentally, it 
also indicates that at some point, drya did serve as an ethnic term, a hypothesis hotly 
dismissed by OTI spokesmen (who claim it is purely relegio-cultural: "Vedic", or 
sociological-ethical: "noble") as a "colonial racist construct." 

A third possibility is that the linguistic exchange which imparted Sanskrit-looking 
words to Uralic took place at a much earlier stage, that of Indo-Iranian, that is, 
before the development of typical Iranianisms such as the softening of [s] to [h]. 
Even the stage before Indo-Iranian unity, namely, when Indo-Iranian had not yet 
replaced the PIE Kentum forms with its own Satem forms and the PIE vowels a/e/o 
with its own uni-vowel a, may already have witnessed some lexical exchanges with 
Uralic. As Asko Parpola (1995: 355) has pointed out, among the IE loans in Uralic, 
we find a few terms in Kentum form which are exclusively attested in the Indo- 
Iranian branch of IE, for example, Finnish kehrd, 'spindle', from PIE *kettra, attested 
in Sanskrit as cattra. While it is of course also possible that words like *kettra once 
did exist in branches other than Indo-Iranian but disappeared in the intervening 
period, what evidence we do have points to pre-Satem proto-Indo-Iranian. 

The continuous IE-Uralic contact may stretch back even further: to the stage of 
PIE. Thus, there is nothing pointing to any specifics of the Indo-Iranian branch in 
the Uralic loan *nime, 'name', *wete, 'water', or *wige, 'to transport' (cfr. Latin 
vehere): these may have been borrowed from united PIE or from other proto- 
branches, for example, from pro to-Germanic. Even more intimate common items 
concern the pronominal system, for example, *m- marking the first and *t- the 
second person singular, *t- the demonstrative, *ku/kw the interrogative. 

And the process of borrowing stretches back even farther than that: to the stage 
of laryngeal PIE. No less than twenty-seven Uralic loans from IE have been iden- 
tified where original PIE laryngeals are in evidence, mostly adapted as [k], for 
example, Finnish kulke, 'go, walk' (Koivulehto 1991: 46) from PIE kwelH-, 
whence Skt carati, 'goes, walks'. Sometimes the resulting sound is [sh], in most 
cases weakened later on to [h], for example, Finnish puhdas, 'clean', from PIE 
pewh-, 'to clean', with perfect participle suffix -t-, cfr. Skt puta, 'cleaned' 
(Koivulehto 1991: 93). If this is correct, PIE and proto-Uralic have come in con- 
tact even before they got fragmented, that is, in their respective homelands. In that 
case, PIE cannot have been located far from Central Asia, and probably 
Northwest India could do the job, especially if the Uralians ultimately arrived in 
the Ob-Irtysh basin from a more southerly region such as Sogdia. 



A third partner in this relationship must also be taken into account, though its 
connection with Uralic looks older and deeper than that of PIE: Dravidian. Witzel 
(1999a: 349) acknowledges the "linguistic connections of Dravidian with Uralic." 
Both are families of agglutinative languages with flexive tendencies, abhorring con- 
sonant clusters and favoring the stress on the first syllable. Sergent (1997: 65-72) 
maps out their relationship in some detail, again pointing to the northwest 
outside India as the origin of Dravidian. We may ignore Sergent's theory of an 
African origin of Dravidian for now, and limit our attention to his less eccentric 
position that a Proto-Dravidian group at one point ended up in Central Asia, there 
to leave substratum traces discernible even in the IE immigrant language Tocharian. 
The most successful lineage of Dravidians outside India was the one which mixed its 
language with some Palaeo-Siberian tongue, yielding the Uralic language family. 
Looking around for a plausible location for this development, we find that Siberia 
may have been a peripheral part where the resulting language could survive best 
in relative isolation, but that its origins may have been in a more hospitable and 
crossroads-like region such as Bactria-Sogdia. In the OIT scenario, the Dravidians 
moved south to Baluchistan and then east into Sindh and Gujarat (avoiding 
confrontation with the Proto-Indo-Europeans in Panjab), while the Uralians moved 
north, and those who stayed behind were absorbed later into the expanding PIE 
community. The interaction of the three may perhaps be illustrated by the word 
*kota/kota, 'tent, house' in Uralic and in Dravidian, and also in Sanskrit and 
Avestan but not in any other branch of IE: perhaps Dravidian gave it to Uralic as a 
birth gift, and later imparted it to those IE languages it could still reach when in 
India. If this part of the evidence leaves it as conjectural that India was the habitat 
of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, it does at least argue strongly for some Central-Asian 
population center, most likely Bactria-Sogdia, as the meeting-place of Proto-Uralic, 
Proto-Dravidian and PIE, before IE and Uralic would start their duet of continuous 
(one-way) linguistic interaction on their parallel migrations westward. 

7.6.4 Sino-Tibetan 

To prove an Asian homeland for IE, it is not good enough to diminish the 
connections between IE and more westerly language families. To anchor IE in 
Asia, the strongest argument would be genetic kinship with an East-Asian lan- 
guage family. However, in the case of Sino-Tibetan, all we have is loans, early but 
apparently not PIE. The early dictionaries suggested a connection between 
Tibetan lama, written and originally pronounced as blama, and Sanskrit brahma 
(S. C. Das 1902: 900); blama is derived from bla-, 'upper, high' (as in (b)la-dakh, 
'high mountain-pass'), and doesn't Sanskrit brh-, root of brahma, mean 'to 
grow', that is, 'to become high', close enough to the meaning of Tibetan bla-! But 
more such look-alikes to build a case for profound kinship were never found. 

On the other hand early contact between members of the two families is well- 
attested though not in India. A well-known set of transmitted terms was in the 
sphere of cattlebreeding, all from IE (mostly Tocharian) to Chinese: terms for horse 



(ma < *mra, cfr. mare); hound (quart, cfr. Skt shvari); honey (mi, cfr. mead, Skt 
medhu); bull (gu, cfr. Skt go); and, more recently, lion (shi, Iranian sher). This does 
not add new information on the Urheimat question, for the IE-speaking cattle- 
breeders in Northwest China could have come from anywhere, but it confirms our 
image of the relations between the tea-drinking Chinese farmers (till today, milk 
is a rarity in the Chinese diet) and the milk-drinking "barbarians" on their borders. 

The first one to point out some common vocabulary between IE and Chinese was 
Edkins (1871). Since then, the attempt has become more ambitious. The old racial 
objection has been overruled: there is no reason why the Early Indo-Europeans 
should have been fair-haired Caucausians (the mummies and skeletons of such 
types found in large numbers in Xinjiang have been dated to well after the PIE age 
range), and at any rate languages are known to cross racial frontiers, witness the 
composition of the Turkish language community, from Mongoloid in pre-Seljuq 
times to indistinguishable from Armenians or Syrians or Bulgarians today. Also, 
unlike modern Chinese, archaic Chinese was similar to IE in the shape of its words: 
monosyllabic roots with consonant clusters, and probably not yet with different 
tones except for a pitch accent, traces of which also exist in Sanskrit and Greek. 

Pulleyblank (1993) claims to have reconstructed a number of rather abstract 
similarities in the phonetics and morphology of PIE and Sino-Tibetan. Though he 
fails to back it up with any lexical similarities, he confidently dismisses as 
a "prejudice" the phenomenon that "for a variety of reasons, the possibility of 
a genetic relationship between these two language families strikes most people as 
inherently most improbable". He believes that "there is no compelling reason 
from the point of view of either linguistics or archaeology to rule out the possi- 
bility of a genetic connection between Sino-Tibetan and Indo-European. Such a 
connection is certainly inconsistent with a European or Anatolian homeland for 
the Indo-Europeans but it is much less so with the Kurgan theory," especially con- 
sidering that the Kurgan culture "was not the result of local evolution in that 
region but had its source in an intrusion from an earlier culture farther easf 
(1993: 106, emphasis mine). 

This is of course very interesting, but: "It will be necessary to demonstrate the 
existence of a considerable number of cognates linked by regular sound corre- 
spondences. To do so in a way that will convince the doubters on both sides of the 
equation will be a formidable task" (1993: 109). That lexical common ground has 
been mapped rather daringly by Chang Tsung-tung (1988), who offers a rich 
harvest of common Sino-IE words of c. 1500 bce. 

Among Chang's findings, we may note, for example, Chinese sun, 'grandson', 
cfr. son; pi (archaic *peit), 'must, duty', cfr. bid, Lat. fides, 'trust', Grk peitho, 
'persuade'; gei (*kop), 'give', cfr. give; gu (*kot), 'bone', cfr. Lat. costa, 'rib'; lie 
(*leut), 'inferior', cfr. lit-tle; ye (Hop), 'leaf, cfr. leaf; bao (*bak), 'thin', 
cfr. few, Latin paucus, 'few'; zhi (*teig), 'show, point at', cfr. in-dex, Grk 
deiknumi; shi (*zieg), 'see', cfr. see, sight. 

Most remarkable in Chang's list is the high number of Northwest-IE and 
specfically Germanic cognates: "Germanic preserved the largest number of cognate 



words" (1988: 32). Eurocentric expansion models would explain this rather simply 
by letting some Germanic warriors, after their ethnogenesis in Europe, strike east 
all through Central Asia, a scenario already widely accepted for Tocharian and 
implemented in recent centuries by the Russians. A more contrived alternative is 
offered by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (1955: 832), who trace a Germanic itinerary 
from their preferred homeland in Anatolia all through Central Asia (and then back 
west to Europe), leading to contact with at least Yeniseian, the northwesternmost 
branch of Sino-Tibetan. Their proof amounts to little more than a very tenuous 
etymology: "And in some Ancient European dialects, in particular Germanic, 
borrowings from Yeniseian must be assumed in such word as *hus, 'house' (. . .), 
cfr. Yeniseian qus, 'tent, house'." 

The OIT would let it all fall into place a little better but still require some special 
pleading: on their way from India, somewhere near the Aral Lake, the Proto- 
Germanic tribe lost one adventurous clan branching off to the east and settling in 
China. This would imply that the ethnogenesis of the Germanic tribes, included 
their distinctive vocabulary, took place in Central Asia rather than in their historic 
North-European habitat. This is counterintuitive though not strictly impossible. 
But then, Chang may simply have been wrong about the large Germanic input. 

However, the main point remains that Chang's scenario, spectacular though it 
may be, is not fundamentally different from what we already knew. It claims that 
some Indo-Europeans imparted some vocabulary to Chinese, but this was a 
process of contact, not of common origin. Chang does not posit a genetic kinship 
but the effect of IE superstratum influence imparted to a native dialect when the 
first Chinese state was "established by IE conquerors" (1988: 34), identified by 
tradition with the culture heroes, especially the Yellow Emperor, said to have been 
enthroned in 2697 bc. Chang's list, even if ever verified does not decide the IE 
homeland question, except to confirm trivially that it was not China, since the IE 
input was brought there by foreign invaders. So, Chang's vocabulary does not fill 
the gaping need of Pulleyblank's hypothesis for a lexico-genetic common ground 
to complement the purported structural similarity between Sino-Tibetan and IE. 
Thus far, we still have no East Asian anchor for IE. 

7.6.5 Austronesian 

Even more unexpected and eccentric than the Chinese connection is the case for 
early contact or kinship between IE and Austronesian. According to Southworth: 

The presence of other ethnic groups, speaking other languages [than IE, 
Dravidian or Munda], must be assumed (. . .) numerous examples can be 
found to suggest early contact with language groups now unrepresented 
in the subcontinent. A single example will be noted here. The word for 
"mother" in several of the Dardic languages, as well as in Nepali, 
Assamese, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati, and Marathi (. . .) is di (or a similar 
form). The source of this is clearly the same as that of classical Tamil ay, 



"mother." These words are apparently connected with a widespread group 
of words found in Malayo-Polynesian (cf. Proto-Austronesian *bayi . . .) 
and elsewhere. The distribution of this word in Indo-Aryan suggests that 
it must have entered Old Indo-Aryan very early (presumably as a nursery 
word, and thus not likely to appear in religious texts), before the move- 
ment of Indo-Aryan speakers out of the Panjab. In Dravidian, this word 
is well-represented in all branches (though amma is perhaps an older 
word) and thus, if it is a borrowing, it must be a very early one. 

(1979: 205) 

Next to ayt, 'mother', Marathi has the form bed, 'lady', as in tdrd-bdi, laksmi-bai. 
etc.; the same two forms are attested in Austronesian. So, we have a nearly 
pan-Indian word, attested from Nepal and Kashmir to Maharashtra and Tamil 
Nadu, and seemingly related to Austronesian. For another example: "Malayo- 
Polynesian shares cognate forms of a few [words which are attested in both Indo- 
Aryan and Dravidian], notably Old Indo-Aryan phala- ['fruit'], Dravidian palam 
['ripe fruit'], etc. (cf. Proto-Austronesian *palam, 'to ripen a fruit artificially' . . .), 
and the words for rice" (Southworth 1979: 206). 

Austronesian seems to have very early and very profound links with IE. In the 
personal pronouns (e.g. Proto-Austronesian *aku, cfr. ego), the first four numerals 
(e.g. Malay dua for 'two', though one theory holds that the proto-Austronesian 
form is *dusa, whence duha, dua; but then why not consider the possibility that 
the similar IE form is likewise the evolute of some older form *dusa?) and other 
elementary vocabulary including the words for 'water' and 'land', the similarity is 
too striking to be missed. Remarkable lexical similarities had been reported since 
at least the 1930s, and they have been presented by Isidore Dyen (1970), whose 
comparisons are sometimes not too obvious but satisfy the linguistic requirement 
of regularity. 

However, this lexical similarity or exchange is not backed up by grammatical sim- 
ilarities: in contrast with the elaborate categories of IE grammar, Austronesian gram- 
mar looks much less complicated, or at least much less orderly, the textbook example 
being the "childlike" plural by reduplication, as in Malay orang, 'man', orang-orang, 
'men'. If the connection is real, we may be dealing with a case of heavy creolization: 
a mixed population (colluvies gentium) adopting lexical items from another language 
but making up a grammar from scratch. Then again, genetically related languages 
may become completely different in language structure (e.g. English versus Sanskrit, 
Chinese versus Tibetan): Dyen therefore saw no objection to postulating a common 
genetic origin rather than an early large-scale borrowing. 

Dyen cannot be accused of an Indian homeland bias either for IE or for 
Austronesian. For the latter, "Dyen's lexicostatistical classification of Austronesian 
suggested a Melanesian homeland, a conclusion at variance with all other sources 
of information (. . .) heavy borrowing and numerous shifts in and around New 
Guinea have obviously distorted the picture," according to Bellwood (1994). For 
IE, he didn't feel qualified to question the AIT consensus. It is in spite of his 



opinions about the Austronesian and IE homelands that he felt forced to face facts 
concerning IE-Austronesian similarities. It just happens to be difficult to rhyme 
these data together otherwise, except for their unsportsmanlike dismissal as "prob- 
ably coincidence." 

The dominant opinion as reported by Bellwood is that Southeast China and 
Taiwan (ultimately "Sundaland"?) are the homeland from where Austronesian 
expanded in all sea-borne directions. Hence its adstratum presence in Japanese, 
which may yet prove to be a rather hard nut to crack for an Indian homeland 
theory of Austronesian. Talageri (1993: 129) predictably incorporates Dyen's 
suggestion of linguistic kinship into a defense of an Indian common homeland for 
IE and Austronesian. But meanwhile, to my knowledge, ever since Dyen's publi- 
cation, no expert has come forward to corroborate his hypothesis or develop it 
further. That's only an argument from opinion trends, possibly even reflecting mere 
inertia and conformism, but it cannot be ignored altogether. 

Incidentally, even a common linguistic origin of IE and Austronesian need not 
prove that they originated in India. Indian Puranic tradition teaches that Manu 
Vaivasvata trekked inland to North India after washing up on the shore during the 
Flood. Suppose the Indo-Europeans and the Austronesians shared a homeland some- 
where in Southeast Asia? An arrival of the Indo-Europeans into India by boat from 
Southeast Asia, is an interesting thought experiment, if only to free ourselves from 
entrenched stereotypes. Why not counter the Western AIT with an Eastern AIT? 

7.7 Glottochronology 

Among the methods once used to map out the history of IE, one which has gone out 
of fashion is glottochronology, that is, estimating the rate of change in a language, 
and deducing a given text corpus's age from the amount of difference with the 
language's present state (or state at a known later time) divided by the rate of change. 
In a few trivial cases, the assumption remains valid, for example, it is impossible for 
the Rgveda to have been composed over a period of a thousand years, because no 
language remains that stable for so long, that is, no language has a rate of change 
approximating zero {unless it is a classical language artificially maintained, like 
classical Sanskrit or classical Chinese, or alternatively, unless the Vedic hymns were 
linguistically updated at the time of their final compilation and editing). 

Likewise, trivial glottochronology allows us to say that the time-lapse between 
Rgveda and Avesta must be longer than approximately zero. It is often said that with 
a few phonetic substitutions, an Avesta copy in Devanagari script (as is effectively 
used by the Parsis: Kanga and Sontakke 1962) could be read as if it were Vedic 
Sanskrit. But in fact, there is already a considerable distance between the two lan- 
guages, including a serious morphological recrudescence in Avestan as compared 
to Vedic. Indeed, in the introduction to his authoritative translation of Zarathushtra's 
Gdthds, Insler writes: "The prophet's hymns are laden with ambiguities resulting 
both from the merger of many grammatical endings and from the intentionally com- 
pact and often elliptical style . . ." (1975: 1, emphasis mine). Having evolved from a 



common starting-point, the Avestan language represents a younger stage of Indo- 
Iranian, a linguistic fact matched by the religious difference between the Rgveda, 
which initially knows nothing of a Deva/Asura conflict, and the Avesta where this 
conflict has come center-stage, just as it has in younger Vedic literature. 

Though a glottochronological intuition remains legitimate, the attempt to define a 
universal rate of change has been abandoned. A test of the common assumptions 
behind much glottochronological reasoning has been carried out on a group of lan- 
guages with a well-known history: the Romance languages. It was found that accord- 
ing to the glottochronological assumptions, Italian and French separated to become 
different languages in ad 1586, Romanian and Italian in ad 1 130, etc.: nearly a mil- 
lennium later than in reality (Haarmann 1990: 2). If this is an indication of a general 
bias in our estimates, the intuitive or supposedly scientific estimates of the age at 
which PIE split (3000 bc), at which Indo-Iranian split (1500 bc) etc., are probably 
too low as well. And it so happens that the OIT tends to imply a higher chronology, 
with the Rgveda falling in the Harappan or even the pre-Harappan period. 

The AIT itself gets into difficulties, having to cram a lot of Old IA history into 
the period between the decline of Harappa and the life of the Buddha, especially if 
both the Vedic period and the invasion-to-Veda period have to be lengthened. And 
they may really have to. Winternitz already wrote (1907: 288): "We cannot explain 
the development of the whole of this great literature if we assume as late a date as 
round about 1200 bc or 1500 bc as its starting-point." He consequently opted for 
"2000 or 2500 bc" as the beginning of Vedic literature. And this beginning came 
a long while after the invasion, for according to Kuiper (1967, 1997: xxiv, quoted 
with approval by Witzel 1999a: 388), "between the arrival of the Aryans (...) and 
the formation of the oldest hymns of the RV a much longer period must have 
elapsed than normally thought." 

On the other hand one is struck by the living presence of the Iranian ethnic 
groups first mentioned in the Rgveda (ddsas, dasyus and panis, who were not 
"dark-skinned pre- Aryan aboriginals" but Iranians, as shown e.g. by Parpola 1995: 
367ff.) as late as the Greco-Roman period. Herodotos, Strabo, and others know of 
such Iranian peoples as the Parnoi and the Dahae. Alexander encountered an Indian 
king called Poms, apparently the same name as carried by the Vedic patriarch Puru, 
a very rare name in classical Hinduism. As a matter of intuitive glottochronology, 
one wonders: at a thousand years after their mention in the Rgveda, isn't this 
stability of nomenclature already a sign of unusual conservatism, given that cultures 
and names change continually? For the Iranian tribes, isn't staying around to be 
noted by Herodotos already a big achievement, considering that nations continually 
disappear, merge, change names, move out, or otherwise disappear from the radar 
screen? Isn't it consequently unlikely that the Rgveda be, say, another thousand 
years older, making the lifespan of these names and tribes even more exceptional? 

In fact, tribal identities can last even longer, and it is again the Rgveda which 
provides ethnonyms which have remained in use till today, that is, 3200 years later by 
even the most conservative estimate. The Vedic king sudds faced and defeated a coali- 
tion of tribes among which we recognize Iranian ethnonyms still in use, including the 



paktha, bhaldna (both 7.18.7), and parshu (RV 7.83.1, 8.6.46). The first is Pakhtoon, 
Pashtu or Pathan, the second is still found inBolan, the mountain pass in Baluchistan; 
and these two embolden us to identify the third as the eponymous founders of the 
Persian province of Fars. Whichever the date of the Rgveda, if the Pathans could 
retain their tribal name and identity till today, the ddsas midpanis could certainly do 
so until the Greco-Roman period. Glottochronology is no longer an obstacle standing 
in the way of the higher chronology required by most versions of the OIT. 

7.8 Conclusion 

We have looked into the pro and contra of some prima facie indications for an 
OIT of IE expansion. Probably none of these can presently be considered as deci- 
sive evidence against the AIT. But at least it has been shown that the linguistic 
evidence surveyed does not necessitate the AIT either. One after another, the clas- 
sical proofs of a European origin have been discredited, usually by scholars who 
had no knowledge of or interest in an alternative Indian homeland theory. 

It is too early to say that linguistics has proven an Indian origin for the IE family. 
But we can assert with confidence that the oft-invoked linguistic evidence for a 
European Urheimat and for an Aryan invasion of India is wanting. We have not 
come across linguistic data which are incompatible with the OIT. In the absence of 
a final judgment by linguistics, other approaches deserve to be taken more seri- 
ously, unhindered and uninhibited by fear of that large-looming but in fact elusive 
"linguistic evidence for the AIT." 


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Hans Henrich Hock 

etaddhastidarsana iva jatyandhdh 

That is like people blind by birth in/when viewing an elephant. 
(Sankaracdrya's bhdsya on Chdndogya-Upanisad 5.18.1) 

... we are all more or less in the position of the Blind Men with the 
Elephant in the Indian parable . . . 

(Thomas 1904: 461) 

8.1 Introduction 

The two citations at the beginning of this chapter characterize two very different 
approaches to the study of the Vedic tradition, or of any tradition - whether in 
India/South Asia or anywhere else. That of Sankaracarya expresses the reaction 
of somebody who already knows the truth, for religious/philosophical or ideo- 
logical reasons, and therefore is able to characterize all those who do not agree as 
being blind to that truth. That of Thomas represents a common view among 
philologers and other scholars who consider truth to be their ultimate goal, but 
realize that truth is always conditional, to be superseded by better evidence or 
interpretation of evidence. The problem with the first view as applied to scholar- 
ship is that its goal is to forestall all dissenting voices and that it therefore does 
not invite meaningful debate. The potential problem with the second approach is 
that it may accept all competing views as equally conditional and therefore, in its 
own way, fails to invite the scholarly challenges and ensuing debate that can lead 
to better insights and closer approximation of the truth. 

To avoid the pitfalls of both approaches it is useful to remind ourselves that 
blind people are just as capable of producing scholarship as anyone else, by 
challenging each other and themselves - as well as sighted people - to go beyond 
what can be grasped at first contact and, as a consequence of having to defend their 
perceptions against competing views, to investigate matters more thoroughly. In so 



doing they - we all - can approximate truth more closely. It is in this sense that 
Thomas's statement should be read and it is in this sense that philology and 
related fields can be truly defined by the German term "Geisteswissenschaft," 
that is, science of the mind, manahsastra. Stated differently, to yield results that 
go beyond initial impressions and beyond the validation of preconceived inter- 
pretations, philology must embrace the scientific approach of being transparent 
and vulnerable - transparent by being open to verification in terms of providing 
supporting evidence and discussing potentially conflicting evidence, and vulner- 
able by being open to challenge and potential falsification. This, I believe, is the 
only way that we can establish a common ground for those working in Vedic stud- 
ies. Without this common ground, there is nothing that permits us to evaluate the 
very different perspectives that are current and thus to reach beyond the differ- 
ences in perspective, ideology, or bias which some of our friends in Cultural 
Studies claim are inherent in any scholarly activity. 

In this chapter I discuss five different cases of Vedic interpretation and a related 
case of Avestan interpretation which have been taken as supporting either the 
view that the Aryans, here defined as speakers of Indo-Aryan (Vedic or Pre- Vedic 
Sanskrit), invaded or migrated into India/South Asia and subjugated a linguisti- 
cally and racially different indigenous population, or the opposing view that con- 
siders Vedic speech to have been established in India/South Asia long before the 
assumed Aryan invasion or immigration. 

Before going into the details, let me say a few words of caution, however. 
Although, as I show, the passages in question and their interpretation do not 
provide cogent support for the hypotheses they are supposed to support, this does 
not mean that either of the two theories is therefore invalidated. It merely means 
that the evidence in question is not sufficiently cogent to provide support for the 
respective hypothesis and therefore must be considered irrelevant. First of all, 
neither hypothesis rests solely on the evidence here examined; and it is in principle 
perfectly possible that other evidence can show one hypothesis to be superior to 
the other. But to do so would require a similar thorough sifting of the evidence 
and its interpretation; and moreover, any new evidence or better interpretation 
would, in true scientific spirit, be able to overturn the so far victorious hypothesis. 
It is also possible in principle that none of the currently available evidence stands 
up under scrutiny and that nevertheless, one or the other hypothesis was histori- 
cally correct, except that the evidence in its favor has not been preserved for us. 
Here as elsewhere it is important to keep in mind the statement attributed to the 
American linguist Paul Postal that "You can't prove that the platypus doesn't lay 
eggs by showing a picture of a platypus not laying eggs." 

8.2 Case I: dialectal variation due to Dravidian influence? 1 

The first case I examine concerns two passages that have been considered 
evidence that the easterners had less correct speech in Vedic times, that this 



speech was closer to Prakrit, and/or that all of this was the result of the linguistic 
influence of the indigenous Dravidians. (Compare for instance the discussion and 
references in Macdonell and Keith 1912: 1.87, 168, 2.279-80, as well as Renou 
1956: 10, 103, Chatterji 1960, and more recently, Deshpande 1978.) Let us refer 
to this view as "dialectal Dravidian influence." 

One of the passages comes from the Satapatha-Brahmana and is cited in 
example [1]. What is significant here is that the expression he 'layo he 'Igyah for 
more correct he 'rgyo he 'rgyah or he argyo he arayah 'Oh enemies, oh enemies' 
exhibits the substitution of / for r which later is associated with eastern, Magadhi 
speech and is at that stage considered inferior. In addition, of course, the present 
passage condemns the Asuras' expression as a barbarism. 

[1] te 'sura gttavacaso he 'layo he 'lava iti vadantah pgrababhuvuh // 
tgtrainam api vgcam uduh j upajijngsyam sg mlechas tgsman ng 
brahmang mleched asuryg haisa vgg 


The Asuras, deprived of (proper) speech, saying he 'lavo he 'lavah 
[instead of he 'rayo he 'rayah or the like] were defeated. At that time they 
spoke this speech, (which was) unintelligible. That is a barbarism. 
Therefore a brahmin should not speak like a barbarian. That speech is of 
the Asuras. 

A second passage which has been cited in support of dialectal Dravidian influ- 
ence is given in example [2]. The assumption is that aduruktavakya refers to the 
more complex consonant groups characteristic of Sanskrit (as in ukta 'spoken') 
which in Prakrit were simplified (as in utta 'spoken') and thus would be consid- 
ered by speakers of Prakrit to be durukta — or rather durutta - 'difficult to pro- 
nounce'. The Prakrit simplification, in turn, is attributed to Dravidian influence. 

[2] aduruktavakyam duruktam ahur. . . 

(Pahcavimsa-Brahmana 17.9) 

Speech that is not difficult they consider difficult . . . 

Although, as noted, many scholars have accepted the view that these two pas- 
sages establish dialectal Dravidian influence, closer examination reveals a num- 
ber of difficulties. One of these is the obvious one that passage [2] does not 
contain any explicit or even implicit reference to eastern speech; and neither 
of the two passages contains a reference to Dravidian. But the difficulties do not 
end here. 

Consider first the fuller version of [2], given as [2']. Evidently, the thrust of the 
passage is not just language use, and certainly not ordinary language use, but 
general incorrect behavior, and the final sentence, adlksita dlksitavacam vadanti, 
whatever its precise interpretation, localizes this behavior in the realm of the 



ritual. Given that correct use of language in ritual is a recurrent concern of the 
Vedas, the default interpretation should be that the durukta and adurukta of our 
passage refer to improper and proper language use in the ritual; durukta thus 
contrasts with the sukta 'well-spoken' which underlies the term suktha 'mantra, 
hymn'. This interpretation finds further support in a near-parallel passage of the 
Jaiminlya-Brahmana [3] which explicitly refers to ritual purity or impurity. 
The passage in [2/2'], thus, does not offer clear and unambiguous evidence for 
dialectal Dravidian influence. 

[2'] garagiro va eteye brahmadyam janyam annam adanty (j) aduruktavakyam 
duruktam ahur (j) adandyam dandena ghnantas caranty (/) adlksita 
dlksitavacam vadanti 

{Pahcavimsa-Brahmana 17.9) 

They who eat foreign (or people's) food (?) as brahmin food are eaters of 
poison. Speech that is not badly spoken they consider badly spoken. They 
go around punishing what/who is not to be punished. Even though not 
consecrated, they (dare to) speak the language of the consecrated. 

[3] vdcd hy avratam amedhyam vadanti 

{Jaiminlya-Brahmana 2.222) 

By means of speech they speak something not in accordance with 
religious duties, something ritually impure. 

That the passage in [1] is similarly concerned more with ritually correct speech 
than with dialectal features in pronunciation is shown by the fuller context, given 
in example [1']. Note especially the passage tarn svlkftydgnav eva parihftya 
sarvahutam ajuhavur ahutir hi devanam 'Having obtained her and having 
enveloped her in fire, they sacrificed her as a burnt offering, for she is an offering 
of/for the Gods'. 

[1'] ...devas ca va asuras cobhaye prajapatyah prajapateh pitur dayam 
upeyur mana eva deva upayan vacam asura ...//... tarn devah / 
asurebhyo 'ntarayams tarn svikftydgnav eva parihftya sarvahutam 
ajuhavur ahutir hi devanam sa yam evamum anustubha juhavus tad 
evainam tad devah svyakurvata te 'sura attavacaso he 'layo he 'lava iti 
vadantah parababhuvuh // tatrainam api vacam uduh / upajijnasyam sa 
mlechas tasman na brahmano mleched asurya haisa vag 


Now, the Gods and the Asuras, both descended from Prajapati, entered 
upon the inheritance of their father, Prajapati. The Gods inherited mind, 
the Asuras, speech . . . The Gods wrested her (= speech) from the Asuras. 
Having obtained her and having enveloped her in fire, they sacrificed her 
as a burnt offering, for she is an offering of/for the Gods. Now, in that they 



sacrificed her with an anustubh verse, thereby they obtained her for 
themselves. The Asuras, [thus] deprived of (proper) speech, saying he 'lavo 
he 'lavah [instead of he 'rayo he rayah] were defeated. At that time they 
spoke this speech, (which was) unintelligible. That is a barbarism. Therefore 
a brahmin should not speak like a barbarian. That speech is of the Asuras. 

Finally, a famous passage of Patanj 'all's (see [4]), containing a near-quotation 
of [1], quite overtly argues for an interpretation of [1] as being primarily 
concerned with ritually correct speech, not with dialectal differences. 

[4] te 'surah / te 'sura helayo helayah kurvantah parababhuvuh / tasmad 
brahmanena na mlecchltaval napabhasltaval / mleccho ha va esa yad 
apasabdah / mleccha ma bhumety adhyeyam vyakaranam // te 'surah // dustah 
sabdah j dustah sabdah svarato varnato va mlthya prayukto na tarn artham 
aha j sa vagvajro yajamanam htnastl yathendrasatruh svarato 'paradhad iti // 
dustan sabdan ma prayuksmahlty adhyeyam vyakaranam // dustah sabdah // 
(Mahabhasya on Pan. 1.1.1, Kielhorn ed. p. 2.7-13) 

The Asuras: The Asuras, saying helayo helayah were defeated. Therefore 
a brahmin must not speak like a barbarian nor use incorrect speech. For 
incorrect speech is barbaric speech. Because we do not want to be 
barbarians, therefore we must study grammar. (So much on) the Asuras. 
Incorrect word: A word incorrect because of the accent or a sound used 
wrongly, does not convey the (proper) sense. (Being) a thunderbolt of 
speech, it injures the sacrificer just as did (the use of) indrasatruh because 
of a wrong accent. Because we do not want to use incorrect words, 
therefore we must study grammar. (So much for) the incorrect word. 

We can thus conclude that the passages in [1] and [2] do not provide cogent 
evidence for dialectal Dravidian influence. To establish such influence, it would 
be necessary to draw on other, more cogent evidence. (In numerous publications 
I have questioned whether any such evidence exists; see Hock 1975, 1984, 1993 
but see also 1996a,b.) 

8.3 Case II: racial differences between 
aryas and dasasldasyus? 

Since at least the time of Zimmer (1 879), the conflict between arya and dasa/dasyu 
in the earliest Vedic texts has been widely interpreted as one between two racially 
distinct groups, whose differences are characterized especially in terms of white or 
light versus black or dark skin color. Basham's summary of the racial characteriza- 
tion of the dasas is representative of this perspective: "The Dasas are described as 
dark and ill-favoured bull-lipped snub-nosed worshippers of the phallus, and of 
hostile speech..." (1954: 32). Similar views are found in Chatterji (1960: 7 and 



32), 2 Childe (1926), Elizarenkova (1995: 36), Geldner (1951: passim), Gonda 
(1975: 129), Hale (1986: 147, see also 154), Kuiper (1991: 17 versus a different 
view on 3—4), Kulke and Rothermund (1986: 35), Macdonell and Keith 
(1912: s.vv. dasa and vdrna), Mansion (1931: 6), Parpola (1988: 104-6, 120-1, 
125), Rau (1957: 16). See also Deshpande (1978: 260) and Sjoberg (1990: 47, 62). 
Evidence for this interpretation comes first of all from the Rig-Vedic passages 
cited in [5]— [13], in which words meaning 'black' or 'dark' appear in reference to 
the opponents of the Aryas. 

[5] aryam prdvad. . . svkrmilhesv . ../... tvdcam krsnam arandhayat 

(RV 1.130.8) 

Geldner: 'Indra helped the Aryan in the battles for the sunlight ... he made 

the black skin subject . . . ' 3 

(Geldner's note: 'the black skin' 4 refers to 'the black aborigines' 5 ) 

[6] (a) pancasdt krsna ni vapah sahdsra ^dtkam nd puro jarima vi dardah 

Geldner: 'Fifty thousand Blacks you defeated. You slit up the forts 
like age [slits up] a garment.' 6 

(b) sura upake tanvdm dddhano vi ydt te cety amftasya vdrpah / 

(RV 4.16.14ab = continuation of 13cd) 
Geldner: 'Taking your stand next to the sun so that the figure of you, 
the immortal, strikes one's eyes . . . ' 7 

[7] (a) tvdd bhiyd visa ayann dsiknir asamand jdhatlr bhojanani 

(RV 7.5.3ab) 

Geldner: 'Out of fear of you the black tribes moved away, leaving 
behind their possessions without fight . . .' 8 

(b) tvdm ddsyumr dkaso agna aja uvayyotir jandyann dryaya 

(Ibid. 6cd) 

You, Agni, drove out the Dasyus from their home, making broad 
light for the Arya.' 

[8] (a) antah krsnam arusair dhdmabhir gat 

(RV 3.31.21b) 

Geldner: 'He excluded the Blacks with the fiery beings ( . . . )' 9 
(Geldner's note: 'The Blacks probably are the black race and, in the 
mythological background, the Panis or the powers of darkness; the 
ruddy beings or powers . . . [are] the powers of light . . . arusd and 
krsna elsewhere are the contrast between morning and night. . .' 10 ) 



(b) driiho viyahi bahuld ddevlh svas ca no maghavan satdye dhah // 

(Ibid. 19cd) 

Geldner: 'Thwart the many godless malices, and let us win the sun, O you 
who are rich in gifts.' 11 

[9] (a) ghndntah krsnam dpa tvdcam 

(RV 9.41.1c) 

Geldner: 'driving away the black skin' 12 

(Geldner's note: the "black skin" refers to "the demons or the un-Aryan 

race" 13 ) 

GraBmann: 'the black cover, i.e. darkness' 14 

(b) sd pavasva vicarsana a mahi rddasi prna j usah suryo nd rasmlbhih 

(Ibid. 5) 
Geldner: 'Clarify yourself, you excellent one, fill both great worlds, (like) 
Usas, like Surya [i.e. the sun] with your beams.' 15 

[10] sd vrtrahendrah krsndyonlh puramdaro daslr airayad vi / djanayan manave 
ksam . . . 

(RV 2.20.7ac) 

Geldner: 'The killer of Vrtra, Indra, broke open the dasic (forts) which pro- 
tected the Blacks in their wombs, he, the breaker of forts. He created land 

for Manu . . .' 16 

[11] yah krsndgarbha nirdhann . . . 

(RV 1.101.1b) 

Geldner: '...who made the ones who were pregnant with the Blacks 

abort (their embryos) . . ,' 17 

[12] indradvistam dpa dhamanti maydya tvdcam dsiknlm bhumano divas pari 

(RV 9.73.5cd) 

Geldner: 'the pressing stones, through magical power, blow away from 
earth and heaven the black skin hateful to Indra. ,l& 
(Geldner's note: the 'black skin' refers to the 'black aborigines') 
GraBmann: 'the black cover, i.e. darkness' 19 

[13] arusaha (10.116 .4d) 

Geldner: 'The killer of the Blacks' 20 

(Geldner's note: The non- White is the dark-colored non-Aryan. . .' 21 ) 

GraBmann: 'slaying the non-shining one, i.e. the dark (cloud) . . .' 22 

Closer examination suggests an alternative interpretation of the terms 'black' 
or 'dark' as referring to the dark world of the dasasldasyus in contrast with the 



light world of the aryas, an interpretation which is in perfect agreement with the 
contrast between good/light and evil/dark forces that pervades the Vedas (and has 
parallels in many, perhaps most other traditions around the world). First, wherever 
there is sufficient context for interpretation (which excludes [11], [12], and [13]), 
either the same line or verse or a closely neighboring one contains a reference to 
the 'sun' [5], [6], and [9], to 'broad light' [7], or to 'red' or 'fiery' beings [8]. 23 
These references are marked in roman. Further, elsewhere in the Rig- Veda the word 
tvac- 'skin', which occurs in [5], [9], and [12], does not necessarily designate 
human or animal skin, but may refer to the surface of the earth. Examples of this 
use occur at RV 1.79.3, 1.145.5, 10.68.4, and possibly 4.17.14. The expression 
roma prthivyah (1.65.8) 'the body-hair of the earth' = 'the plants', suggests that 
the metaphor of tvac- as the 'skin' or surface of the earth was well established 
in the poetic language of the Rig- Veda. In [5], [9], and [12], therefore, the refer- 
ence may well be to the 'dark earth' or 'dark world' of the dasas/dasyus that con- 
trasts with the urujyotih 'broad light' of the aryas, which is lit up by the sun or 
by 'fiery beings'. In this regard note the close similarity between the expressions 
djanayan mdnave ksam 'he created land for Manu' in [10] and urujyotir 
jandyann aryaya 'making broad light for the arya\ (For further discussion see 
Hock 1999.) Kennedy (1995: 56) argues for a similar interpretation, but without 
detailed philological support; the situation is similar in publications such as 

The case is even weaker for the "noseless" and "bull-lipped" characterizations 
of the dasas/dasyus. Both characterizations rest on a single passage each ([14] 
and [15]); and in both cases it was soon realized that the "racially" tinted 
interpretation is problematic at best. Nevertheless, as Trautmann (1999) points 
out, the single occurrence of the "noseless" passage gave rise to an elaborate 
"racial" account by Risley (1891: 249-50), which claims that there are "frequent 
references to the noses of the people whom the Aryans found in possession of the 
plains of India" [emphasis supplied]. 

[14] anaso ddsyumr amrno vadhena 
ni duryond avrnan mrdhrdvacah 


You destroyed the noseless {anas- = a- 'negative' + nas- 'nose'?) dasyus 
with your weapon; you smashed those of evil speech in their abode. 

[15] dasasya cid vrsasiprdsya may a jaghndtur nara prtandjyesu 

(RV 7.99.4cd) 

You have destroyed the tricks even of the dasa "bull-lipped" (?) in the 
battles, O lords. 

A very different interpretation of [14] has been available since Say ana, has 
been accepted by most Indologists, and is supported by the use of mrdhrdvac- in 
the same verse, which can only mean 'of evil or bad speech'. This is the analysis 



of anas- as an- 'negative' + as- 'mouth' - that is 'mouthless' = 'speechless; 
barbarian'. Given the limited context, it is I believe impossible to judge whether 
this characterization refers to a linguistic difference such as Dravidian versus 
Aryan, or whether it should be interpreted as referring to ritually incorrect 
speech, along the same lines as in examples [1] and [2]. 

As for the word glossed as "bull-lipped," the problem is that, as acknowledged 
for example, by Macdonell and Keith (1912, s.v. sipra), the element sipra in this 
compound is of rather uncertain interpretation and that there are numerous other 
problems of a formal nature. Moreover, it must be kept in mind that words 
meaning 'bull' do not have negative connotations in early Sanskrit, as they tend 
to have in Modern English, but are used widely to indicate male or masculine 
strength. The correct interpretation of vrsasipra therefore is anybody's guess. 

The evidence of the Rig-Vedic passages just examined thus does not establish 
a difference in "race" or phenotype between dryas and dasasl dasyus . Whether 
there was such a difference or not will have to be argued out on the basis of other 
evidence which, of course, must likewise be subjected to close scrutiny. (The 
archaeological evidence at this point does not support an in-migration of a 
different racial group in the entire second millennium bc; but then it also fails to 
furnish evidence for the well-established later in-migrations of Sakas, Hunas, and 
many other groups. So this evidence, too, fails to yield reliable results. See Hock 
2002 for further discussion.) 

8.4 Case III: textual evidence for Aryan in-migration? 

Some publications claim that the Rig-Veda contains actual textual evidence for 
an Aryan in-migration; see for example, Biswas 1995, Witzel 1995. In support of 
this claim they refer to passages such as RV 6.45.1, 10.63[.l], 10.108.1-10 (the 
Sarama-episode) which are said to mention travel or arrival from afar; 
6.20.12=1.174.9, 2.13.12; 24 4.19.6, 10.53.8 which supposedly deal with the 
often difficult crossing of rivers; 6.47.20-21 which is considered to refer to 
traversing through narrow passages; and the like. A detailed exemplification of 
these and other similar passages can be dispensed with; suffice it to state that 
none of them provide unambiguous clues that the point of origin for these travels 
was further (north-)west or outside of India/South Asia, or that the direction of 
travel was to the east or further into India/South Asia. 25 In fact, Witzel weakens 
his own case by mentioning (1995: 322) that "several tribes on the Indo-Iranian 
Borderlands undergo this ordeal twice a year: they descend to the plains of the 
Panjab in the winter, only to return to the highlands of Afghanistan in the spring, 
in each case passing through hostile territory." Given this modern-day parallel, 
what is to prevent us from looking at the passages cited by Biswas and Witzel as 
referring to similar, fairly local movements back and forth within the larger South 
Asian area, rather than a movement of new immigrants? 

Witzel, to be sure, believes to have found Rig-Vedic evidence that does support 
an eastward movement of the Aryans; see [16]. Witzel gets this interpretation by 



claiming that savyatah 'on the left' can also mean 'to the North', and indicates once 
again that Vedic poets faced the east - their presumed goal - in contemplating the 

[16] dpavrnor jyotir aryaya ni savyatah sadi dasyur . . . 

for the Arya you opened the light; the Dasyu was left behind, on the left . . . 

While uttara certainly can mean both 'left' and 'north', for the savya of this 
passage the meaning 'left' is normal, and 'north' seems to be quite uncommon 
(Bothlingk-Roth give no attestation). Moreover, there is nothing in this passage 
which requires the meaning 'north'. At best, then, the passage is ambiguous - 
which means that it cannot be used in support of any hypothesis. What is more 
serious is Witzel's claim that the Vedic poets' orientation to the east reflects their 
"goal," presumably of their migration. A much simpler explanation is possible, 
namely that the orientation to the east reflects a ritual or religious orientation to 
the rising sun. This explains not only the eastern orientation of Vedic society and 
ritual in general [17a], but also the similar orientation in Old Irish [17b] (where 
an eastward migration can be safely excluded), the fact that English north and its 
Germanic cognates are related to words meaning 'left' elsewhere in Indo- 
European [17c]; and the very etymology of the words orient, orientation, which 
derive from Lat. oriri 'to rise', and similar words such as Levante and Anatolia 
[17d]. (See Hock and Joseph 1996: 245-8 with parallels elsewhere.) 





'east' (lit. 'forward') 


'north' (lit. 'left') 


'south' (lit. 'right') 


'west' (lit. 'behind') 




'east' (lit. 'directed forward') 


'north' (lit. 'left direction') 


'south' (lit. 'right direction') 


'west' (lit. 'directed to behind') 




Compare Oscan-Umbrian nertro- 




'east' (lit. 'rising') 



'east' (lit. 'rising') 



'east' (lit. 'rising') 


An investigation of the Vedic texts that follows the strict philological principles 
which this chapter advocates then must conclude that the passages cited by 
Biswas and Witzel do not provide cogent evidence for Aryan in-migration and 
thus cannot be used to counter the claim of opponents of the so-called "Aryan 
Invasion Theory" (e.g. Rajaram and Frawley 1997: 233) that there is no indige- 
nous tradition of an outside origin. (But note that with the claimed exception 



of Avestan, for which see Section 8.5, and the fanciful dynastic self-derivation of 
the Romans from Troy, none of the other ancient Indo-European traditions are 
aware of an origin outside their settlement areas either; see Hock 2002.) 

8.5 Case IV: Avestan evidence for out-migration 
from India? 

Like many opponents of the "Aryan Invasion Theory," Rajaram and Frawley 
(1997) maintain that there is no textual evidence for in-migration to India, but that 
the puranas offer references to an out-migration. Following Talageri (1993a,b) 
they further suggest that in spite of their late attestation the puranas preserve 
Vedic tradition. While it is in fact possible that the puranas preserve much older 
traditions, it is also possible that only some of their information is old and other 
information is quite recent. To keep Rajaram and Frawley's from remaining a 
mere assertion, it would be necessary to furnish supporting evidence or, failing 
that, criteria that make it possible to distinguish ancient from recent textual 
material regardless of one's ideological persuasion. 

Rajaram and Frawley (1997: 233) further argue that, by contrast to the Vedic tra- 
dition, the Avestan/Zoroastrian tradition recognizes an outside origin, the airiiamm 
vaejah. The latter suggestion goes back to Bhargava (1956) via Talageri (1993a: 
180-1, 1993b: 140-1), and is also advocated by Elst (1999: 197-8). 26 In the inter- 
est of transparency I give an extensive citation of Bhargava 's claim and Talageri 's 
interpretation of that claim, with just some minor omissions (indicated as [. . .]): 

. . . Bhargava points out: The evidence of the Avesta makes it clear that 
sections of these Aryans in course of time left Sapta Sindhu and settled 
in Iran. The first chapter of the Vendidad [. . .] enumerates sixteen holy 
lands created by Ahura Mazda which were later rendered unfit for the 
residence of man (i.e. the ancestors of the Iranians) on account of 
different things created by Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit of the 
Avesta. . . [Talageri's omission]. The first of these lands was of course 
Airyana Vaejo which was abandoned by the ancestors of the Iranians 
because of severe winter and snow; of the others, one was Hapta Hindu, 
i.e. Saptasindhu. This is the clearest proof that the Aryan ancestors of the 
Iranians were once part and parcel of the Aryans of Sapta Sindhu before 
they finally settled in Iran. Excessive heat created in this region by 
Angra Mainyu was, according to the Vendidad the reason why the 
ancestors of the Iranians left this country. 

(Talageri 1993a: 180-1) 

[. . .] The Hapta Hindu mentioned in the Vendidad is obviously the 
Saptasindhu (the Punjab region), and the first land "abandoned by the 
ancestors of the Iranians because of severe winter and snow" before they 



came to the Saptasindhu region and settled down among the Vedic 
people, is obviously Kashmir. 

(Ibid. 1993b: 140-1) 

Let us contrast this "Out-of-India" account with a summary of the textual 
evidence, focusing on the sixteen different regions mentioned in Videvdad 1, 
with indications in the right column of the geographical identification where such 
an identification is possible. (A blank indicates that the location is uncertain.) 

First, there is the Airiiamm Vaejah of the Good Daitiia River. 
Second, there is the progression: 


Airiiamm Vaejah 


Gava inhabited by the Sogdians 

(NE, north of the Oxus) 





S. of the Oxus 


Nisay between Margiana and Bakhtria 



(Modern Herat) 






Xnanta, inhabited by Hyrcanians 

Harax v aitl = Arachosia 

The area around the 




modern Helmand 


Hapta Hdndu 

Ved. Sapta Sindhavah 



Ved. Rasa (exact location 

Even a cursory examination of the order in which the different regions appear 
shows that there is no direct link between the starting point, the airiiansm vaejah, 
and hapta hdndu, which is the next-to-last mentioned region. 

A closer look reveals other, even more damaging problems for the 
Bhargava-Talageri hypothesis. First, there is the question of where to locate the 
starting point, the airiiandm vaejah. Skjaervo (1995) is no doubt correct in con- 
cluding that if an identification is possible at all, it would at best be 
Khwarezmia. 28 Such a location north of the river Oxus would be suggested by the 
geographic logic of the listing of regions 2-11. To the extent that the regions can 
be identified, they present a progression from north of the Oxus (region 2) to 
between Oxus and Han Rud (3-5), to Herat (6), and ending at what appears to be 
a southern-most area, that around the modern Helmand (10-11) which, like the 
airiiandm vaejah has special religious significance: The Hamun-i-S(e)istan into 
which the Helmand empties, identified with the Avestan Lake Kasaoiia, is the 
place where bathing maidens will receive Zarathushtra's seed (deposited there by 



Arddvl = Arddvl Sura Anahita 'Fertile, powerful, spotless', a deified river) and 
will give birth to the future saviors, the Saosiiants. 

What is especially remarkable is the fact that, to judge by the identifiable 
regions, there is a clear north-to-south progression from region 2 to regions 
10-11; and this progression is to be situated to the west of the mountain ranges 
that (roughly) separate present-day Iranian and Indo-Aryan territory. The Hapta 
Hsndu of region (15), on the other hand, clearly is on the eastern side and, 
together with the last region, the Ranha, overlaps with the Vedic geographical 
horizon (even though the exact location of the Ranha, Ved. Rasa, is not clear). See 
Figure 8.1, where the different regions are identified by their numbers. 

One possible interpretation of this evidence is that we are simply dealing with 
an outline of a core Iranian or Zoroastrian territory (probably idealized), with 
the different regions defining its boundaries on the north (region 2; also 1?), 
west (3-6, also 7-8?), south (10-1 1), 29 and east (region 15; also region 16?). 
The purpose of the listing, in that case, would be similar to the various 
Indo-Aryan definitions of Aryavarta. 

In this case, the overlap of regions (15) and (16) with the Vedic geographical 
horizon would of course raise interesting questions. Was the overlap not just 
geographical but also chronological? In that case, did Indo-Aryans and 
(Zoroastrian) Iranians live in close proximity to each other in this area? Since the 
Videvdad is a late text, no doubt postdating the Vedic period, this is at best a pos- 
sibility, not a necessary conclusion. Or does the overlap reflect the well-known 
Vedic shift from the northwest to Madhyadesa, accompanied (or caused?) by an 
in-migration of Iranians to the northwest? The fact that the Sindhu tends to 
become the border river between Iranians and Indo-Aryans might provide further 

Caspian 1 

Figure 8. 1 The geography of regions listed in Videvdad 1 . 




Figure 8.2 A migration interpretation of Videvdad 1 (?). 

support for such an "Iranian In-Migration" hypothesis; but again, this is a mere 
possibility. To substantiate this interpretation of our passage would require much 
more robust evidence. 

If, by contrast, we were to take the approach advocated by Bhargava, Talageri, 
Rajaram and Frawley, and Elst, and interpreted the sequencing of regions as 
indicating migration, the result would be, not a movement Out-of-India, but rather 
Into India; see Figure 8.2. Such a movement would obviously be difficult to 
reconcile with the Out-of-India hypothesis. It would of course be compatible with 
the Iranian In-Migration hypothesis; but as just noted, much more robust evidence 
would be required to substantiate such an interpretation of our passage. 

We must therefore conclude that the Videvdad passage does not provide cogent 
evidence for an Out-of-India hypothesis, or for the claim that, in contrast to 
the Vedic tradition, the Zoroastrian tradition acknowledges an outside origin. 
Arguments concerning prehistoric movements in the Indo-Iranian linguistic 
territory, therefore, will have to be based on other evidence or, failing that, must 
be considered unresolvable. 

8.6 Case V: astronomical evidence in the Kausitaki-Brahmana 
for dating the Vedas? 

A passage in the Kausltakl (or Sankhayana) Brahmana [18] has given rise to 
numerous attempts to fix the age of the Vedic texts. The basic idea is straightfor- 
ward: In this passage, the month of Magha occurs at the time of the winter 
solstice, while later/nowadays it occurs during January/February of the western 
calendar. Making allowances for the well-known precession of equinoxes, this 



difference makes it possible in principle to establish the time period at which the 
passage must have been composed. 30 

[18] sa vai maghasyamavasydyam upavasaty udann avartsyann upeme vasanti 
prayanlyenatiratrena yaksyamanas tad enarh pvathamam apnuvanti . . .sa 
sanmasan udann eti tarn urdhve salahair anuyanti sa sanmasan udann itvd 
tisthate daksinav artsy ann upeme vasanti vaisuvatlyenahna yaksyamanas 
tad enarh dvitlyam apnuvanti sa sanmasan daksinaiti tarn avrttaih salahair 
anuyanti sanmasan daksinetva tisthata udann avartsyann upeme vasanti 
mahavratlyenahna yaksyamanas tad enarh trtlyam apnuvanti 

(KB 19.3) 

He (= the sun) rests at the new moon of Magna, about to turn northward; 
these (the priests) rest (too), about to sacrifice with the introductory 
atiratra; so they obtain him first ... [A clear reference to the winter solstice, 
after which the sun "turns northward," i.e. begins to rise farther and farther 
to the north each day] 

He goes northward for six months; him they follow with six-day 
sacrifices in correct order. 

Having gone north for six months, he stays, about to turn south; they 
rest, about to sacrifice with the visuvat (= midsummer) sacrifice; so they 
obtain him a second time. [A clear reference to the summer solstice, after 
which the sun "turns south," i.e. begins to rise farther and farther to the 
south each day] 

He goes south for six months; they follow him with six-day sacrifices in 
reverse order. 

Having gone south for six months, he stays, about to return north; they 
rest, about to sacrifice with the mahavrata sacrifice; so they obtain him 
a third time [a clear reference to the winter solstice again]. 

Unfortunately, the results of early attempts to use this passage for establishing the 
date of our text, surveyed in Macdonell and Keith 1912: 1: 422-5, are far from 
straightforward. Estimates range from 2350 bc (Tilak for the related Taittirlya- 
Sarhhita passage), to 1391 bc (Davis and Colebrook for our text), to as late as 
1181 bc (Jones and Pratt), or even 800-600 bc (Macdonell and Keith's conclu- 
sion). A recent publication by Rajaram (1995: 41-3) fixes the date even earlier 
than Tilak, to around 3000 bc. 

The question we need to ask ourselves is, "Why this wide range of interpreta- 
tions?" Clearly, it cannot be a question of the mathematics, which given the 
precession rate of 1° = roughly 72 years, is simple and straightforward; and 
scholarly or ideological bias or national origin is not sufficient either to explain, 
say the difference between Tilak's and Rajaram's conclusions, or between 
those of, say, Davis and Colebrook versus Macdonell and Keith. The problem, 
I submit, lies in inherent uncertainties of how to interpret our passage. 



To lay the ground for this evaluation, let me introduce the immediately 
preceding passage in Kausltaki Brahmana 19.2, example [19]. 

[19] te purastad eva dlksaprasavan kalpayante taisasyamavasyaya ekaha 
uparistad dlkseran maghasya vety ahus tad ubhayam vyuditam taisasya tv 
evoditataram iva ta etam trayodasam adhicaram masam apnuvanty etavan 
vai samvatsaro yad esa trayodaso masas tad atraiva sarvah samvatsara apto 
bhavati / 

(KB 19.2) 

They establish the consecration soma-pressings before(hand). They should 
consecrate themselves one day after the new moon of Taisa, or of Magha, 
so they say. Now, either (view) is widely proclaimed; but that of Taisa is 
more (commonly) proclaimed, as it were. They obtain this thirteenth, addi- 
tional month. So great indeed is the year as this thirteenth month. So here 
the entire year is obtained. 

Surveying the passages in [18] and [19], a few things can be established with 
certainty, others with a good degree of likelihood, and yet others remain entirely 

What is certain from [18] is that at the time of the composition of our text the 
view was held that the winter solstice occurs at the new moon of Magha. The 
passage in [19] further makes it fairly likely, although not absolutely certain, that 
the new moon coinciding with the winter solstice may have been early in the 
month of Magha; this would explain that the consecration is more commonly set 
for the first day of the preceding month's new moon - under the assumption that 
this would make it possible to begin the ritual immediately after the winter 
solstice. (The less preferred option, the day after the new moon of Magha, would 
entail a delay of the ritual.) The fact that [19] also mentions an intercalary 
thirteenth month further makes it likely that the tradition of the Kausltaki 
Brahmana used intercalary months to reconcile the difference between solar and 
lunar year cycles. 

Beyond this, too many crucial elements remain entirely uncertain. These 
include the following: 

1 Was intercalation used on a yearly basis? That is, were the months entirely 
lunar (consisting of 27 or 28 days), and the thirteenth month was inserted 
every year? If so, at what point in the cycle was it inserted? If this was not 
the case - as suggested by the fact that [18] mentions six+ six = twelve 
months for the course of the sun - at what yearly intervals were intercalary 
months inserted, and what, therefore, was the number of days per month (the 
Vedic texts range between 27 and 35 days)? Given a rough correlation of 
1 day = 1° or 72 years of precession, the difference between 27 and 35 days, 
that is 8 days, would translate into a variation in time depth of 576 years. 



2 If the calendrical cycle was indeed one of twelve solar months, plus 
intercalary months at certain - unknown - intervals, the new moon of Magha 
could fall on any day within a 27/28 day window. This introduces a possible 
variation of about 1,950 years. Moreover, it would suggest that the coinci- 
dence of winter solstice and the new moon of Magha was not strictly fixed, 
but approximate. In that case, we must face the uncertainty of the tolerance 
of variation that our tradition accepted - one week, more than that, less than 
that? - and how it resolved cases where the difference between solstice 
and new moon exceeded that tolerance. Unfortunately, our text does not tell 
us anything about this; and the overall evidence of the Vedic texts is too 
heterogeneous to be helpful. 

3 Did the month begin with the new moon or with the full moon? As 
Macdonell and Keith point out, the commentaries are not unanimous on this 
count, although the majority seem to favor the full moon. The difference of 
about fourteen days would introduce a possible variation of about 1,000 years. 

4 If intercalary months were inserted at certain intervals, rather than on 
a yearly basis, a further element of uncertainty is introduced, namely the 
extent to which intercalation managed to maintain synchronization of lunar 
and solar years, especially as the precession of equinoxes threatened that 
synchronization. The extent to which a cumulation of slightly incorrect 
intercalations could have contributed to the difference between the timing of 
Magha in the Kausltakl Brahmana and later (at, say, Varahamihira s time, or 
at present) is truly incalculable. And the problem would become even greater 
if there had been changes in the method of intercalation. 

As noted, none of uncertainties can be resolved on the basis of our text, or of 
the general Vedic tradition for that matter; and the margin of error is at least 
of a magnitude of between 576 and 1,950 years. (The latter is what, roughly, 
separates the extreme proposals - c.3000 by Rajaram versus 800-600 bc by 
Macdonell and Keith.) The philological evidence simply does not permit using 
our passage(s) as the basis for determining the date of composition of the 
Kausltakl Brahmana, nor does it permit making a rational choice between the 
wide variety of different estimates that have been proposed. Determining the age 
of our text and thereby establishing a point of departure for estimating the age of 
the Vedas, therefore, will have to be based on other evidence or, failing that, will 
have to be admitted as not being determinable by sound philological means. 

8.7 Case VI: Rig- Vedic astronomical evidence 
for dating the Vedas? 

Several publications have taken Rig-Vedic passages containing a form of 
brahman to refer to a solstice or other important point in the solar year, and have 
taken this interpretation as the foundation for establishing the date of the 



Rig-Veda; Elst (1999: 107-8) provides a helpful summary, especially in light of 
the fact that several of these publications are not available to me. 

Tilak (1893) interpreted the brahman of the passage in [20] as referring to the 
"equinox and the fruit of the union between a divine father and daughter, i.e. the two 
adjoining constellations Mrgashira/Orion and Rohini/Aldebaran . . ." (Elst 1999: 
107-8) and this is believed to establish that the word brahman can indeed refer to a 
major point in the solar year. Sengupta (1941) took brahman in [21] to refer to the 
summer solstice and, because of the reference to what Elst characterizes as a "non- 
total eclipse ... in the afternoon on the Kurukshetra meridian," used this conjunction 
to fix the date to 26 July 3298 bc (Sengupta 's publication unfortunately is not acces- 
sible to me, as a consequence I am not sure which of the two occurrences of brah- 
man he takes to refer to the summer solstice.). Rajaram (1995: 106) finds support 
for the use of 'brahman as referring to "solstice" in the passage in [22]; see his inter- 
pretation in [22a]. As Elst (and also Rajaram) notes, Sengupta 's "calculation stands 
or falls with the unusual translation of the word brahma [sic] as 'solstice'." Elst 
finds support for this interpretation by "later scriptural references to the same event, 
Shankhayana Aranyaka 1:2, 18 and Jaiminiya Brahmana 2.404^410." And he 
concludes by saying "On the other hand, it is up to the skeptics to come up with 
a convincing alternative translation which fits the context." 

[20] prdthista ydsya vlrdkarmam isndd dnusthitam nu ndryo dpauhat / punas 
tad a vrhati ydt kanaya duhitur a anubhrtam anarva //5// 
madhya ydt kdrtvam dbhavad abhtke kamam krnvane pitdri yuvatyam / 
manandg reto jahatur viydnta sanau nisiktam sukrtdsya yonau //£>// 
pita ydt svath duhitdram adhiskdn ksmaya retah samjagmano ni sihcat / 
svadhyb 'janayan brahma deva vdstos pdtim vratapam nir ataksan //7// 
sd im visa na phenam asyad djau smdd a pdraid dpa dabhrdcetah / sdrat 
pada na ddksiha paravfn na ta nil me prsanyb jagrbhre //8// 

(RV 10.61) 

Whose manly action (Say ana: semen) had spread out, desiring, (that) 
man put then aside (what he had) set out (to do). He pulls it back again that 
which was inserted from (= in) the virgin daughter, (he) the undefeatable. 

When it was in the middle of (what was) to be done, in the encounter, 
the father making love with the young woman, the two left behind a little 
(Say ana: alpam) semen, going apart, poured down on the back (of the 
earth), on the abode/yoni of the good deed. 

When the father mounted his daughter, having intercourse, he poured down 
semen on the earth. The Gods produced brahman 'equinox' (?) or 'blessing' 
and created Vastospati (Sayana: Rudra), the protector of vows. 

Like a bull he (Sayana: Vastospati) threw foam in the battle/encounter; 
at the same time he went back and forth, of weak = uncertain (?) mind. 
She ran to the southern locations like someone banished (saying/thinking) 
"These allures of mine did not take." 



[20'] utasi maitravaruno vasisthorvdsya brahman mdnaso dhijatdh / drapsdm 
skanndm brdhmana daivyena visve devdh piiskare tvadadanta // 


And you, Vasistha are the son of Mi tra and Varuna, O brahman 'priest', 
born from Urvasl from (her) mind. The All-Gods took you, the shedded 
drop (of Mitra and Varuna's semen [see verse 13]), in the lotus blossom 
with divine brahman 'spell/blessing'. 

[21] a yahy ddribhih sutdm somam somapate piba / vfsann indra vrsabhir 
vrtrahantama //I//. . . 

. . . I madhyandine sdvane matsad indrah //4d// 

ydt tvd surya svdrbhanus tdmasdvidhyad asurdh / dksetravid ydtha 

mugdho bhuvandny adldhayuh //J// 

svdrbhanor ddha ydd indra mdyd avo divo vdrtamana avdhan / gulhdth 

suryam tdmasdpavratena (/) turiyena brdhmanavindad dtrih //6/j 

ma mam imam tdva sdntam atra irasya drugdho bhiydsa ni garlt j tvdm 

mitro asi satydradhas tail mehavatam vdrunas ca raja j/7// 

grdvno brahma yuyujanah saparydn klrina devdn ndmasopasiksan / dtrih 

siiryasya divi cdksur ddhat svdrbhanor apa maya aghuksat j/8// 

yam vai suryam svdrbhanus tdmasavidhyad asurdh / dtrayas tarn anv 

avindan nahy anye dsaknuvan j/9// 

(RV 5.40) 

Come, drink the soma pressed with stones, O lord of soma, O bull, Indra, 
with the bulls, greatest Vrtra-slayer. 

... at the midday pressing, may Indra enjoy himself. 

When the asuric Svarbhanu had hit you with darkness (as with an 
arrow), O Surya (=0 sun), the creatures appeared like someone confused, 
not knowing his surroundings. 

When at that time you, Indra, destroyed Svarbhanu s wiles/magic, unfold- 
ing under the sky, Atri found, by means of the fourth brahman 'summer 
solstice' (?) or 'prayer, spell', the sun hidden with illegal darkness. 

Let him, the betrayer, not swallow me here out of envy and fear, (me) 
being yours. You are Mitra/friend of true favor; let these two help me here, 
(you) and King Varuna. 

Atri, the brahman 'summer solstice' (?) or 'priest, spell-caster' who 
joins the pressing stones and honors the Gods with mere 31 (?) bowing, he 
has placed the eye of the sun in the sky; he has hidden the wiles/magic of 

The sun indeed whom the asuric Svarbhanu hit with darkness, the Atris 
found him again; others were not able. 



[22] asasanam visdsanam atho adhivikdrtanam / suryayah pasya rupani (/) tani 
brahma tu sundhati 

(RV 10.85.35) 

(a) Behold the forms of the Sun Goddess, behold the hues of her 
garments; the border, the head and the division - which [sic] 
brahma [sic] relieves her. (Rajaram in Rajaram and Frawley 
1997: 201) 

(b) A slaughtering, a cutting up, and then a further cutting. Behold the 
colors of Suryd (the bride); but the brahman 'priest, spell-caster' 
cleans them. 

(c) (It is like) the slaughtering, cutting up, and cutting to pieces. - Behold 
the colors of Sutya\ But the enchanter cleans them. 32 

As the translations in [20]-[21] and [22b/c] show, it is indeed possible to come up 
with alternative translations which, in each case, fit both the narrow context of the 
verse in which brahman occurs, and the broader context of the entire hymn and/or 
its use in the ritual or its interpretation by traditional Indian commentators. 
Moreover, unlike Elst's summary argument, based on interpretations by Tilak, 
Sengupta, and Rajaram, these translations do not confuse brahman (neuter) 
'prayer, spell, blessing' with brahman (masculine) 'priest, spell-caster, etc.', and 
their well-established meanings and difference in meaning, and do not require 
unusual interpretations which cannot be supported by independent evidence in 
the Rig-Veda or elsewhere in the Vedic tradition. 

The problematic nature of Tilak's, Sengupta 's, and Rajaram 's interpretations 
becomes even clearer once we take a closer look at the relevant passages. 

Let us begin with [20]. The verses referred to by Tilak/Elst, including verse 7 
in which brahman (neuter) occurs, form part of a longer passage (verses 2-1 1), 
whose central theme is the shedding of semen and its consequences. Verses 5-8 
more specifically relate to the common Vedic myth of a primordial father- 
daughter incest which, as the general Vedic context shows, needs to be either 
avenged (by Rudra) or, in this case (verse 7), must be set right by divine inter- 
cession - in terms of a brahman (neuter) 'blessing'. As a consequence, the natu- 
ral interpretation of verse 7 would be 'When the father mounted his daughter, 
having intercourse he poured down semen on the earth. The Gods produced 
a blessing and created Vastospati, the protector of vows.' This conclusion is sup- 
ported by [20'], where again the Gods produce a brahman (neuter) 'blessing', this 
time on the divine birth of Vasistha through Urvasl, the apsaras. Nothing in [20], 
or in the larger context of the hymn or of the Vedic tradition, or in Say ana s com- 
mentary, points to an astronomical interpretation. The burden is on those claim- 
ing such an interpretation for [20] to demonstrate either that the same/a similar 
interpretation is appropriate for [20'], or to explain why such an interpretation is 
not appropriate for [20'] - or for any of the many other occurrences of brahman 
(neuter) outside [20] and [21]. 



One problem with [21] is that there is no overt connection in this hymn between 
the first four verses and the remainder of the hymn, which is one of several Vedic 
versions of the Svarbhanu myth. As a consequence, the fact that verse 4 talks 
about the madhyandina savana cannot automatically be taken as situating the rest 
of the hymn in time. Second, there is nothing in verses 6-9 that identifies the 
eclipse as a partial one - an interpretation which I take to be crucial for estab- 
lishing the date of July 26, 3298 bc. Rather, statements such as gulhdm suryam 
tdmasapavratena 'the sun hidden by illegal darkness' suggest a complete eclipse. 
Most important, the two occurrences of brahman, the first neuter, the second 
masculine, are perfectly compatible with the usual meanings 'prayer, spell' and 
'priest, spell-caster' respectively. In fact, the last verse, not referred to in Elst's 
summary, secures the interpretation of verse 8 as referring to an action by the 
brahman (masc.) 'priest' Atri, by claiming that 'the Atris found him (the sun) 
again; others were not able'. The interpretation of the first occurrence of brahman 
(neuter) in the collocation turiyena brdhmana as meaning 'with the fourth prayer 
or spell' is supported by the parallel passages in TS and SB (or Tand.) 
6.6.8, in which the Gods overcome Svarbhanu only on the fourth attempt. 
Nothing in our passages calls for an astronomical interpretation; and those advo- 
cating such an interpretation owe it to us to explain why that interpretation is lim- 
ited just to the passages in [20]-[22], and does not occur elsewhere. As for the 
two later Vedic passages which are claimed to support Sengupta's interpretation 
of RV 5.40, 1 have made a thorough examination of one of these, JB 2.204-10 (the 
other text was not available to me). While the JB text does indeed talk about 
solstice (winter and summer), it does not localize the solstice in space and time, 
and it does not relate it to a solar eclipse. Put differently, it provides no evidence 
that would support Sengupta's specific astronomical interpretation. 

Finally, as is well known, the passage in [22] comes from the Rig- Vedic 
wedding hymn. The null hypothesis therefore would be an interpretation which is 
in keeping with this context; and any other interpretation would require more than 
casual justification. Now, while there can be some question over the exact 
interpretation of verse 35 - what is the meaning of asdsanam visdsanam dtho 
adhivikdrtanam in this context, and how precisely does this collocation relate to 
the following rupani 'colors' or 'forms'? - the recitation of this verse (together 
with verses 29, 30, and 34) in the ritual at the giving away of the bride's garment 
(see Ap.GS 9.11), combined with the extended context of the wedding hymn, 
makes it likely that an interpretation along the lines of Geldner [22c] is the most 
appropriate. Under this interpretation the various words for slaughter suggest the 
blood stains {rupani) on the bridal garment which, though natural after consum- 
mation of marital union, are inauspicious because of their blood. Before the bridal 
garment can be given away, then, a priest or spell-caster must somehow purify the 
garment and remove the inauspicious stains. 

As mentioned earlier, Elst has thrown out a challenge to those disagreeing with 
the astronomical interpretation that he advocates "to come up with a convincing 
alternative translation which fits the context." The preceding discussion has met 



that challenge. Moreover, Elst admits (and so does Rajaram) that the interpretation 
of "brahma" on which the astronomical interpretation rests is "unusual." The 
preceding discussion has, I hope, demonstrated that the interpretation is not only 
"unusual," but also philologically dubious. 

As in all the other cases examined in this chapter, this does of course not mean 
that therefore Sengupta's fourth millennium bc date for the Rig- Veda is incorrect. 
It simply means that the evidence in favor of that date is not sufficient, and that 
attempts to establish a date for the Rig- Veda on the basis of astronomical 
evidence contained in the text must look for philologically better grounded 
evidence. Until and unless such evidence is found, however, we will have to argue 
the date of the Rig-Veda on the basis of other, non-textual evidence or, failing 
that, we will have to admit our inability to determine the date. 

8.8 Conclusions 

The fact that closer investigation of each of the six cases examined in this chapter 
has led to negative results may be disappointing and even depressing for those 
who look to the Vedic texts for clues to resolve important issues about the 
prehistory and early history of South Asia/India. But even if we believe that the 
Vedas are historical documents, rather than simply apauruseya and thus beyond 
the reach of any historical investigation, it is important to remind ourselves that 
whatever their original and/or secondary purposes may have been, they were not 
intended as data bases for latter-day historians. Whatever historical evidence they 
may contain, therefore, can only be gleaned by a careful, philologically 
well-grounded reading of the lines - and between the lines - of the texts. If that 
reading, then, fails to provide answers to historical and prehistorical questions 
that concern us, it is better to admit this than to arbitrarily choose one or another 
of several conflicting and poorly established interpretations. In this manner, at 
least, we leave the issue open for further discussion, rather than closing the 
debate, on the incorrect assumption that we have found a satisfactory answer. 
(Personally, I feel that most of the evidence and arguments that have been offered 
in favor either of the Aryan In-Migration hypothesis or of the Out-of-India 
hypothesis are inconclusive at closer examination. 33 But see Hock [2002] on the 
issue of what I there call the "horse culture complex." 34 ) 

Even more significant, I believe, is the methodology which I have employed. 
Throughout I have endeavored to live up to the desiderata outlined at the beginning, 
namely being transparent and vulnerable - transparent by providing supporting evi- 
dence that is easily open to verification, and vulnerable by being open to challenge 
and potential falsification. As I stated at the outset, this, I believe, is the only way that 
we can establish a common ground for those working in Vedic studies. Without this 
common ground there is nothing to evaluate the many conflicting theories without 
either resorting to questioning each others' motives, or saying "Trust me, trust me." 
As I tell my students: If people merely say "Trust me, trust me," don't trust them, 
don't trust them. And as to questioning each others' motives, it is good to note that 



people as different in their motives as Elst and Zydenbos have stated on the Indology 
List that what really counts is the evidence and its interpretation - even racists and 
communalists can come to correct results if their evidence and their methodology are 
correct (however much we may deplore their ideologies and biases). 


This is a considerably expanded version of a paper read at the July 2000 meeting 
of the World Association for Vedic Studies in Hoboken, NJ, and submitted for 
publication in the Proceedings. I am grateful to the organizers for inviting me to 
give this presentation. 


1 This section draws on Hock 1993. 

2 With the qualification on p. 7 that the Indo-Europeans were of 'unknown racial char- 
acteristic (though it is not unlikely that they were Nordic originally [!]) . . .' 

3 'Indra half dem . . . Arier ... in den Kampfen um das Sonnenlicht machte er . . . die 

schwarze Haut untertan.' 

4 'die schwarze Haut.' 

5 'die schwarzen Ureinwohner.' 

6 'Fiinfzigtausend Schwarze warfst du nieder. Du zerschlissest die Burgen wie das Alter 
ein Gewand.' 

7 'Neben die Sonne dich stellend, daB deine, des Unsterblichen, Gestalt in die Augen 
fallt ' 

8 'Aus Furcht vor dir zogen die schwarzen Stamme fort, indem sie kampflos ihren Besitz 
zuriicklieBen ' 

9 'Er schloB die Schwarzen aus mit den feuerfarbigen Wesen (. . .).' 

10 'Die Schwarzen sind wohl die schwarze Rasse und im mythologischen Hintergrund die 
Panis oder die Machte der Dunkelheit, die rotlichen Wesen oder Machte . . . die Machte 
des Lichtes . . . arusa und krsna ist sonst der Gegensatz von Morgen und Nacht ' 

11 'Durchkreuze die vielen gottlosen Tiicken und laB uns, du Gabenreicher, die Sonne 

12 'die schwarze Haut vertreibend.' 

13 'die Unholde oder die unarische Rasse.' 

14 'die schwarze Decke, d.h. die Finsterniss.' 

15 'Lautere dich, du Ausgezeichneter, erfulle die beiden groBen Welten, (wie) Usas, wie 
Surya mit den Strahlen.' 

16 'Der Vrtratoter Indra sprengte die dasischen (Burgen), die die Schwarzen in ihrem 
SchoB bargen, der Burgenbrecher. Er schuf fur Manu Land . . .'. 

17 '. . . der. . . den mit den Schwarzen Schwangeren (die Leibesfrucht) abtrieb . . .'. 

18 'die (PreBsteine) blasen durch Zaubermacht die dem Indra verhaBte schwarze Haut von 
Erde und Himmel weg.' 

19 'die schwarze Decke, d.h. die Finsterniss.' 

20 'Toter der Schwarzen.' 

21 'Der NichtweiBe ist der dunkelfarbige Nichtarier. . .'. 

22 'die nicht glanzende, d.h. dunkle (Wolke) . . . schlagend.' 

23 The interval between [7a] and [7b] is a little larger; but [7b] explicitly mentions the 
dasyus, making it legitimate to relate it to [7a]. 

24 Witzel's reference, 1.12.13 must be a typo. 



25 If anything, 6.20.12 = 1.174.9 would refer to a passage across the sea; and the Panis, 
whom Sarama visits in RV 10. 108, live beyond the river Rasa in the extreme northwest 
(see Verse 1) - this passage thus does not provide strong evidence for an Aryan 
movement into India/South Asia. 

26 Without reference to either Talageri or Bhargava. 

27 A shorter version is found in Yast 10. 

28 It could of course be even further north (in the areas later held by the Massagetae and 
the Sakas). However, Skjajrvo acknowledges that Gnoli (1989: 38-51) may be right in 
assuming that the airiiansm vaejah "was simply the invention by priests who wished 
'to place their Prophet at the centre of the world'." 

29 Regions 12-14 could mark additional markers of the southern or eastern boundaries. 
If region 13, Caxra, can be confidently identified with modern Carx in Southeast 
Afghanistan, near Ghazna, it might be considered a transitional boundary marker, 
between southwestern 10-11 and more northeastern 15. 

30 The following discussion supersedes what I had to say on this issue in Hock 1999 
which unfortunately was not philologically well grounded. 

3 1 The exact meaning of kiri(n) in this context is not clear; elsewhere a meaning 'praising, 
praiser' seems appropriate. 

32 '(Es ist wie) das Schlachten, Zerlegen und Zerschneiden. - Sieh die Farben der Stirya! 
Aber der Beschworer reinigt sie.' 

33 This includes Jha and Rajaram's (2000) claimed decipherment of the Indus script which 
identifies the language as Sanskrit of the sutra period. As noted by several scholars on 
the Indology List, including Witzel and Farmer, even if the phonetic values attributed to 
the Indus signs should be correct, the decipherment leaves far too much latitude for 
interpretation by proposing a single sign for all vowel-initial aksaras and by assuming 
that vowels are not indicated. As a consequence, a sequence of V (= any vowel) + p 
(=p followed by any vowel) could designate Skt upa, apa, api, apo, apo, and thanks to 
the assumption that endings often are not written out, apih and all other inflected forms 
of the word, all inflected forms of op- 'water', and even Engl. up. What is especially dis- 
concerting (and a propos for this chapter) is the fact that many of the Sanskrit interpre- 
tations offered are not well-formed Sanskrit. For instance, Jha and Rajaram offer a 
reading isadyattah marah which they interpret to mean 'Mara (forces of destruction) 
controlled by Ishvara', referring 'to the cosmic cycle of creation and destruction. Yattah 
is derived from the root 'yam', meaning to control...' (2000: 167-8). Setting aside 
faulty transcriptions such as isad for intended Isad, we can observe at least two prob- 
lems of a rather elementary structural sort. One of these is the implicit assumption that 
the ablative/pancaml can be used to designate the agent/kartr of a passive construction 
(the correct case is the instrumental^rfiya). The other is the belief that consonant dou- 
bling applies freely in Vedic and thus can also apply to single consonants between vow- 
els (hence yata- 'controlled' — > yatta), whereas the Vedic pratisakhyas agree on 
permitting such doubling only in consonant groups (as in atra 'here' — > attra). 

34 Notice that my argument in Hock (2002) is not affected by whether or not there is 
incontrovertible skeletal evidence for horses in the Indus Civilization or whether Jha and 
Rajaram's "artist's reproduction" of a reconstituted "Horse Seal" (2000: 177) can be 
maintained in the face of extensive criticism on the Indology List and elsewhere; see for 
instance Steve Farmer (7/24/00, 9:31, 9:37, 9:41 p.m.) and Witzel (7/25/00, 1:40 a.m.), 
both on the Indology List. The "horse culture complex" involves not just the presence 
of horses, but of domesticated horses, their use with two-wheeled battle chariots, and 
their significance in the Vedic ritual. The first uncontroversial evidence for something 
that can be considered a horse culture complex is found in the late phases of the Indus 
civilization, in Pirak (near the Bolan Pass), together with other cultural changes, and in 
Swat (near the Khyber Pass) - that is, in areas that would have been first affected by an 
in-migration. (See e.g. Kenoyer 1995: 226-7 and Kennedy 1995: 46.) 




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Subhash Kak 

9.1 Introduction 

The use of Vedic astronomy in fixing early Indian chronology has been 
contentious, but recent discoveries have strengthened the case of its use. The ear- 
lier criticism was based mainly on the argument that no credible evidence sup- 
ported the belief that the Vedic people knew anything but primitive astronomy. 
Furthermore, the generally accepted model of the presence of the Vedic people in 
India simply did not support the dates - some of which go as far back as the 
fourth millennium bc - that emerged from Vedic astronomy. Inconvenient inter- 
nal dates of texts, such as c.1300 bc (or 1800 bc as argued by Achar 2000b) in the 
case of Vedanga Jyotisa, were explained away as a result of poor observations in 
a tradition that lacked a sound practice of observational astronomy. Although 
there was circularity in this reasoning, it carried weight in some circles. 

The idea that observational astronomy was lacking in India was part of the 
larger view that India was a civilization of imagination and it lacked real science 
(Inden 1990). This position, which arose out of colonialist attitudes of the nine- 
teenth century, is negated by the discovery of the earliest geometry and mathe- 
matics in India (Seidenberg 1962, 1978), the outstanding grammatical and logic 
traditions (Rao and Kak 2000), and advanced traditions of medicine, chemistry, 
and technology (Ray 1956; Subbarayappa 1971). 

Meanwhile, the question with regard to astronomy itself has changed for a variety 
of reasons: first, Billard showed that the belief that India did not possess a tradition 
of observational astronomy was wrong (Billard 1971; van der Waerden 1980); 
second, archaeological discoveries reveal to us that SarasvatI - the great river of 
the Rgvedic times - dried up before 1900 bc, suggesting that parts of the Rgveda 
must be at least as old as that epoch (Feuerstein et al. 1995); third, discovery of 
an hitherto unknown astronomy in the Vedic texts that establishes the credibility 
of the internal astronomical dates from the texts (Kak 1992-2000); fourth, a 
variety of evidence that indicate that the Indian cultural tradition represents a 
continuity that goes back at least about 10,000 years (Kenoyer 1998); fifth, 
computer reconstruction of ancient skies indicate that the Vedic astronomical 
references unambiguously point to the third millennium bc (Achar 2000a,b,c). 



The archaeological record relating to antiquity and continuity of the Indian 
tradition means that the Vedic dates are not inconsistent with it. The finding about 
the relative sophistication of Vedic astronomy means that we must consider these 
dates carefully, especially if there is other independent evidence that supports them. 
The focus of this chapter is to summarize recent findings of Vedic astronomy 
up to the Vedanga Jyotisa period. We review the altar astronomical code, ideas 
related to the size and the nature of the planetary system and the motions of the 
sun and the moon, and show how this astronomy constitutes a sophisticated sys- 
tem based on sound observations. We show that the chronological framework 
revealed by Vedic astronomy is entirely consistent with the literary evidence from 
the texts as well as the new archaeological findings. We visit several Vedic astro- 
nomical dates and show how these dates are in broad agreement with the new 
chronological markers obtained through a study of altar astronomy. 

9.2 Vedic knowledge 

The fundamental idea pervading Indian thought from the most ancient times is 
that of equivalence or connection (bandhu) among the adhidaiva (devas or 
stars), adhibhuta (beings), and adhyatma (spirit). These connections, among the 
astronomical, the terrestrial, the physiological, and the psychological, represent 
the constant theme in the discourse of Vedic texts. These connections are usually 
stated in terms of vertical relationships, representing a recursive system; but they 
are also described horizontally across hierarchies where they represent 
metaphoric or structural parallels. Most often, the relationship is defined in terms 
of numbers or other characteristics. An example is the 360 bones of the infant - 
which later fuse into the 206 bones of the adult - and the 360 days of the year. 
Likewise, the tripartite division of the cosmos into earth, space, and sky is 
reflected in the tripartite psychological types. 

Although the Vedic books speak often about astronomical phenomena, it is 
only recently that the astronomical substratum of the Vedas has been examined 
(Kak 1992-2000). One can see a plausible basis behind the connections between 
the astronomical outer and the biological inner, stressed in the Vedas. Research 
has shown that all life comes with its inner clocks. Living organisms have 
rhythms that are matched to the periods of the sun or the moon. There are quite 
precise biological clocks of 24 hours (according to the day), 24 hours 50 minutes 
(according to the lunar day since the moon rises roughly 50 minutes later every 
day) or its half representing the tides, 29.5 days (the period from one new moon 
to the next), and the year. Monthly rhythms, averaging 29.5 days, are reflected in 
the reproductive cycles of many marine plants and those of animals. 

The menstrual period is a synodic month and the average duration of 
pregnancy is nine synodic months. There are other biological periodicities of 
longer durations. These connections need not be merely numerical; in its most 
general form is the Upanisadic equation between the self {atman) and the universe 



It is tempting to view jyotisa, the science of light and astronomy, as the 
fundamental paradigm for the Vedic system of knowledge. Jyotisa is a term that 
connotes not only the light of the outer world, but also the light of the inner land- 
scape. Astronomy is best described as naksatra-vidya as in the Chdndogya 
Upanisad, but because of its popularity we will also use jyotisa in its narrow 
meaning of astronomy. As defining our place in the cosmos and as a means to 
understand the nature of time, astronomy is obviously a most basic science. 

That astronomy reveals that the periods of the heavenly bodies are incommen- 
surate might have led to the notion that true knowledge lies beyond empirical 
(apara) knowledge. On the other hand, it is equally likely that it was an analysis 
of the nature of perception and the paradox of relationship of the perceptor to the 
whole that was the basis of Vedic thought, and the incommensurability of the 
motions in the sky was a confirmation of the insight that knowledge is recursive. 

This Vedic view of knowledge seems to have informed the earliest hymns so it 
does not appear to be feasible to answer the question of which came first. Neither 
can we now answer the question whether jyotisa as pure astronomy was a 
precursor to a jyotisa that included astrology. 

Analysis of texts reveals that much of Vedic mythology is a symbolic telling of 
astronomical knowledge. This has been pretty well established for other mytholo- 
gies as well (de Santillana and Dechend 1969). Astronomy was the royal science 
not only because it was the basis for the order in nature, but also because the inner 
space of man, viewed as a microcosm mirroring the universe, could be fathomed 
through its insights. 

The importance of jyotisa for agriculture and marking rites and festivals is 
clear. Different points in the turning year were marked by celebrations. The year, 
beginning with the full moon in the month Phalguna (or Caitra), was divided into 
three four-monthly, caturmdsya, sacrifices. Another way of marking the year is by 
a year-long dlksd. The year was closed with rites to celebrate Indra Sundslra 
(lndra with the plough) to "obtain the thirteenth month"; this thirteenth month 
was interposed twice in five years to bring the lunar year in harmony with the 
solar year. This closing rite is to mark the first ploughing, in preparation for 
the next year. Symbolically, this closing was taken to represent the regeneration 
of the year. Year-long ceremonies for the king's priest are described in the 
Atharvaveda Parisista; these include those for the health of horses, the safety of 
vehicles, and so on. 

The Grhyasutras describe rites that mark the passage of the day such as the 
daily agnihotra. Three soma pressings, at sunrise, midday, and sunset, were a part 
of the daily ritual of agnistoma. Then there were the full and new moon cere- 
monies. Longer soma rites were done as sattras, sessions of twelve days or more. 
It is clear that Jyotisa, as astronomy plus astrology, played an extremely important 
role in the lives of the Vedic people. The underlying measurement basis was 
sidereal - with respect to the stars - and this required careful observation. The 
division of the month into thirty tithis, each of which is slightly smaller than 
a solar day, required abstraction and measurement. 



9.2.1 Altars 

Altar ritual was an important part of Vedic life and we come across fire altars in 
the Rgvedic hymns. Study of Vedic ritual has shown that the altar, adhiyajna, was 
used to show the connections between the astronomical, the physiological, and 
the spiritual, symbolically. That the altars represented astronomical knowledge is 
what interests us in this chapter. But the astronomy of the altars was not system- 
atically spelled out although there are pointed references in many texts including 
the tenth chapter of the Satapatha Brahmana, entitled "Agnirahasya." The 
Rgveda itself is viewed as an altar of mantras in the Sulbasutras. 

Altars were used in relation to two basic types of Vedic ritual: Srauta and 
Grhya. This ritual marked specific points in the day or the year as in the soma 
rituals of agnistoma and agnicayana. The Satapatha Brahmana describes the 
twelve-day agnicayana rite that takes place in a large trapezoidal area, called 
the mahavedi, and in a smaller rectangular area to the west of it, which is called 
the praclnavamsa or pragvamsa. The text says clearly that agnicayana represents 
ritual as well as knowledge. 

The mahavedi trapezium measures thirty prakrama on the west, twenty-four 
prakrama on the east, and thirty-six prakrama lengthwise. The choice of these 
numbers is related to the sum of these three equaling one-fourth the year or 
ninety days. 

The nominal year of 360 days was used to reconcile the discrepancies between 
the lunar and solar calendars, both of which were used. In mahavedi a brick altar 
is built to represent time in the form of a falcon about to take wing, and in the 
praclnavamsathere are three fire altars in specified positions, the garhapatya, 
ahavanlya, and daksinagni. 

The garhapatya, which is round, is the householder's fire received from the 
father and transmitted to the descendents. It is a perpetual fire from which the 
other fires are lighted. The daksinagni is half-moon shaped; it is also called 
the anvaharyapacana where cooking is done. The ahavanlya is square. Between 
the ahavanlya and the garhapatya a space of a rough hourglass is dug out and 
strewn with grass; this is called the vedi and it is meant for the gods to sit on. 

During the agnicayana ritual the old ahavanlya serves the function of the 
original garhapatya. This is the reason why their areas are to be identical, 
although one of them is round and the other square. In addition eight dhisnya 
hearths are built on an expanded ritual ground. 

Agnicayana altars are supposed to symbolize the universe. Garhapatya 
represents the earth, the dhisnya hearths represent space, and the ahavanlya altar 
represents sky. This last altar is made in five layers. The sky is taken to represent the 
universe therefore it includes space and earth. The first layer represents the earth, 
the third the space, and the fifth the sky. The second layer represents the joining of 
the earth and space, whereas the fourth layer represents the joining of space and sky. 

Time is represented by the metaphor of a bird. The months of the year were 
ordinarily divided into six seasons unless the metaphor of the bird for the year 



was used when hemanta and sisira were lumped together. The year as a bird had 
the head as vasanta, the body as hemanta and sisira, the two wings as sarada and 
grlsma, and the tail as varsa. 

The Vedic sacrifice is meant to capture the magic of change, of time in motion. 
Put differently, the altar ritual is meant to symbolize the paradoxes of separation 
and unity, belonging and renunciation, and permanence and death. The yajamana, 
the patron at whose expense the ritual is performed, symbolically represents the 

The ritual culminates in yajamana ritual rebirth, which signifies the regeneration 
of his universe. In other words, the ritual is a play dealing with paradoxes of life 
and death enacted for the yajamana^ family and friends. In this play symbolic 
deaths of animals and humans, including the yajamana himself, may be enacted. 

9.2.2 Evolution of Vedic thought 

How did the use of altars for a symbolic representation of knowledge begin? This 
development is described in the Puranas where it is claimed that the three altars 
were first devised by the king Pururavas. The genealogical lists of the Puranas 
and the epics provide a framework in which the composition of the different 
hymns can be seen. The ideas can then be checked against social processes at 
work as revealed by textual and archaeological data. 

As we will see later in this chapter, there existed an astronomical basis to the 
organization of the Rgveda itself; this helps us see Vedic ritual in a new light. That 
astronomy could be used for fixing the chronology of certain events in the Vedic 
books was shown more than a hundred years ago by Tilak, Dikshit, and Jacobi. 
This internal evidence compels the conclusion that the prehistory of the Vedic 
people in India goes back to the fourth millennium and earlier (Dikshit 1969). On 
the other hand, new archaeological discoveries show a continuity in the Indian 
tradition going as far back as 8000 bc (Shaffer and Lichtenstein 1995). These are 
some of the elements in accord with the view that the Vedic texts and the archae- 
ological finds relate to the same reality. One must also note that the rock art tra- 
dition in India has been traced back to an even greater antiquity (Wakankar 1992). 
Whether this tradition gave birth to the Harappan tradition is not clear at this time. 

Recent archaeological discoveries establish that the Sarasvatl river dried up 
c.1900 bc which led to the collapse of the Harappan civilization that was prin- 
cipally located in the Sarasvatl region. Francfort (1992) has even argued that the 
Drsadvati was already dry before 2600 bc. The region of the Sarasvatl and the 
Drsadvati rivers, called Brahmavarta, was especially sanctified and Sarasvatl was 
one of the mightiest rivers of the Rgvedic period. On the other hand, Pancavimsa 
Brahmana describes the disappearance of Sarasvatl in the sands at a distance of 
forty days on horseback from its source. With the understanding of the drying up 
of Sarasvatl it follows that the Rgvedic hymns are generally anterior to 1900 bc 
but if one accepts Francfort's interpretation of the data on the Drsadvati then the 
Rgvedic period includes the period before 2600 bc. 



It is most significant that the Puranic king-lists speak of 1924 bc as the epoch 
of the Mahabharhata war, that marked the end of the Vedic age. This figure of 
1924 bc emerges from the count of 1500 years for the reigns prior to the Nandas 
(424 bc), quoted at several places in the Puranas, as corrected by Pargiter 
(1922). Since this epoch is virtually identical to the rough date of 1900 bc for 
the catastrophic drying up of the Sarasvatl river, it suggests that the two might 
have been linked if not being the same, and it increases our confidence in the use 
of the Indian texts as sources of historical record. 

9.3 Naksatras 

The Rgveda describes the universe to be infinite. Of the five planets, it mentions 
Brhaspati (Jupiter) and Vena (Venus) by name. The moon's path was divided into 
27 equal parts, although the moon takes about 27 \ days to complete it. Each of 
these parts was called a naksatra. Specific stars or asterisms were also termed 
naksatras, and they are mentioned in the Rgveda and Taittirlya Samhita, the latter 
specifically saying that they are linked to the moon's path. The Rgvedic referring 
to thirty-four lights apparently means the sun, the moon, the five planets, and the 
twenty-seven naksatras. In later literature the list of naksatras was increased to 
twenty-eight. Constellations other than the naksatras were also known; these 
include the Rksas (the Bears), the two divine Dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor), 
and the Boat (Argo Navis). The Aitareya Brahmana speaks of Mrga (Orion) and 
Mrgavyadha (Sirius). The moon is called surya rasmi, one that shines by sunlight. 

The Satapatha Brahmana provides an overview of the broad aspects of Vedic 
astronomy. The sixth chapter of the book provides significant clues. Speaking of 
creation under the aegis of the Prajapati (referring either to a star or to abstract 
time) mention is made of the emergence of Asva, Rasabha, Aja, and Kurma 
before the emergence of the earth. It has been argued that these refer to stars or 
constellations. Visvanatha Vidyalankara (1985) suggests that these should be 
identified as the sun (Asva), Gemini (Rasabha), Capricorn (Aja), and Cassiopeia 
(Kurma or Kdsyaplya). Vedic ritual was based on the times for the full and the 
new moons, solstices and the equinoxes. The year was known to be somewhat 
more than 365 days and a bit less than 366 days. The solar year was marked var- 
iously in the many different astronomical traditions that marked the Vedic world. 
In one tradition, an extra 1 1 days, marked by ekadasaratra or an eleven-day 
sacrifice, were added to the lunar year of 354 days. According to the Taittirlya 
Samhita 5 more days are required over the nominal year of 360 days to complete 
the seasons, the text adding that 4 days are too short and 6 days are too long. In 
other traditions, gavam ayana, "the walk of cows or intercalary periods," varied 
from 36 days of the lunar sidereal year of 12 months of 27 days, to 9 days for the 
lunar sidereal year of 13 months of 27 days, to bring the year in line with the ideal 
year of 360 days; additional days were required to be in accord with the solar year. 

The year was divided into two halves: uttarayana, when the sun travels north, 
and daksinayana, when the sun travels south. According to the Kausltaki 



Brahmana, the year-long sacrifices began with the winter solstice, noting the 
occurrence of the summer solstice, visuvant, after six months. 

The naksatra names of the months began with Caitra in spring, although some 
lists begin with Phalguna. Since the months shift with respect to the 12 naksatra 
about 2,000 years per naksatra, this change in the lists indicates a corresponding 
long period. The lists that begin with Caitra mark the months thus: Caitra, 
Vaisakha, Jyaistha, Asadha, Sravana, Bhadrapada, Asvina, Krttika, Margasira, 
Pausya, Magna, Phalguna. That this scheme goes back to the Rgvedic period 
has been argued by Achar (2000c). The earliest lists of naksatras in the Vedic 
books begin with Krttika, the Pleiades; much later lists dating from sixth century 
ce begin with Asviril when the vernal equinox occurred on the border of Revatl 
and Asvini. Assuming that the beginning of the list marked the same astronomi- 
cal event, as is supported by other evidence, the earliest lists should belong to 
the third millennium bc. The Taittiriya Samhita 4.4.10 and Satapatha Brahmana each mention twenty-seven naksatras. But there was also a tradition 
of the use of twenty-eight naksatras. The Atharvaveda 19.7 lists these twenty- 
eight together with their presiding deities; the additional naksatra is Abhijit. 
The lists begins with Krttika (Pleiades) where the spring equinox was situated at 
that time. 

9.4 Ritual, geometry, and astronomy 

We have mentioned that the altars used in the ritual were based on astronomical 
numbers related to the reconciliation of the lunar and solar years. The fire altars 
symbolized the universe and there were three types of altars representing the 
earth, the space, and the sky. The altar for the earth was drawn as circular whereas 
the sky (or heaven) altar was drawn as square. The geometric problems of circu- 
lature of a square and that of squaring a circle are a result of equating the earth 
and the sky altars. As we know these problems are among the earliest considered 
in ancient geometry. 

The fire altars were surrounded by 360 enclosing stones, of these 21 were 
around the earth altar, 78 around the space altar, and 261 around the sky altar. In 
other words, the earth, the space, and the sky are symbolically assigned the num- 
bers 21, 78, and 261. Considering the earth/cosmos dichotomy, the 2 numbers are 
21 and 339 since cosmos includes the space and the sky. 

The main altar was built in five layers. The basic square shape was modified 
to several forms, such as falcon and turtle, built in five layers, of a thousand 
bricks of specified shapes. The co